Cover image for Master of deceit J. Edgar Hoover and America in the age of lies
Master of deceit J. Edgar Hoover and America in the age of lies
Publication Information:
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2012.

Physical Description:
1 online resource : ill.
Target Audience:
1090 L
Nothing in this book matters until you care about communism -- The war of images -- The turning point: subversive activities -- The fighting war -- The war of shadows -- The age of fear -- The land of lies -- Epilogue: master of deceit, then and now.
This book examines the story of America during J. Edgar Hoover's reign as head of the FBI.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 9 9 Quiz 150643 English non-fiction.
Lexile Measure:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Internet Site XX(992617.1) 1

On Order



A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist.

"King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation."
Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit suicide. Who wrote this anonymous letter? The FBI. And the man behind it all was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director. In this unsparing exploration of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century, accomplished historian Marc Aronson unmasks the man behind the Bureau- his tangled family history and personal relationships; his own need for secrecy, deceit, and control; and the broad trends in American society that shaped his world. Hoover may have given America the security it wanted, but the secrets he knew gave him
- and the Bureau - all the power he wanted. Using photographs, cartoons, movie posters, and FBI transcripts, Master of Deceit gives readers the necessary evidence to make their own conclusions. Here is a book about the twentieth century that blazes with questions and insights about our choices in the twenty-first.
Back matter includes an epilogue, an author's note, source notes, and a bibliography.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-The life of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is explored in Marc Aronson's fascinating non-fiction offering (Candlewick, 2012). To learn about Hoover is to learn about 20th-century American history. World War I, gangsters, the Lindbergh kidnapping, World War II, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement-Hoover was there for it all. The author does a tremendous job of separating fact from fiction, and the result is a balanced portrait of a complicated man. Hoover's vision of law enforcement was to gather scientific information in well-organized files and use a team of experts to catch criminals. Aronson delves deeper, asking listeners to consider the price of safety. He makes parallels between Hoover's (often illegal) cold war tactics and post 9/11 methods of dealing with America's enemies. Narrator Luke Daniels turns in a strong, straightforward performance that keeps listeners interested. The bonus disc includes intriguing photos that teachers will find useful. A valuable addition to nonfiction collections-Tricia Melgaard, formerly Broken Arrow Public Schools, Tulsa, OK (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

"[T]his book is not and should not be just about Hoover," Aronson (Trapped) tells readers in the epilogue to this wide-ranging, extensively researched, and detailed biography of the controversial 20th-century FBI director. He's not kidding: Hoover's story unfolds against the tumultuous immigrant history of the U.S. and the growth of the FBI, which Hoover molded for more than 40 years. Hoover emerges as a magnified example of abusive governmental power, portrayed as a controlling conformist who was organized, intelligent, sexually suppressed, and manipulative. Aronson's stimulating questions ("[W]ho is the bigger liar: the capitalist who teases the poor with images of goods they cannot afford or the Communist who hypnotizes the masses with empty slogans and false ideals?"), and his occasional use of first- and second-person, will wake up readers accustomed to less in-your-face historical narratives. The book does an excellent job of creating parallels between America's anticommunist efforts and the current fight against terrorism as it questions the price of security and the media's roles in keeping secrets. Period photographs, movie posters, cartoons, and FBI documents supplement a biography abounding in historical context. Ages 14-up. Agent: Ken Wright, Writers House. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Aronsons biography of J. Edgar Hoover chronicles the facts of his personal life and his half-century-long stranglehold on the FBI: beginning during World War I, culminating with the Vietnam War (just shy of Watergate), and encompassing such diverse phenomena as Prohibition, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement. It duly notes his talents for organization, motivation, and manipulation -- and the tricks of his trade: secrets, lies, and grudges. The book also delves into the potential secrets in Hoovers closet: a strange relationship with his mother, persistent rumors about his sexuality, and the possibility of a racially mixed ancestry. Perhaps Aronsons greatest task, however, is to re-create, for a generation of readers for whom Communism is a relic of the past, the palpable fear of Communism and the formidable threat that it posed to the American psyche throughout most of the last century. Aronson succeeds admirably on all these fronts, but perhaps this last one best, especially when he reveals a chilling personal connection in an authors note. The biography of an American villain, a history of America during the last century, and a meditation on what it means to be American in the present era -- Aronson delivers another provocative book with an ambitious focus, sprawling and scattershot at times, but almost gloriously so. Notes, bibliography, image credits, and index are appended. jonathan hunt (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

American Idol, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings, this is as much about how history is written as it is about Hoover and his times. Extensive backmatter includes fascinating comments on the research, thorough source notes that are actually interesting to read and a lengthy bibliography. Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best. (Nonfiction. 14 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

This biography is an unflinching portrait of an insecure, scheming zealot who conflated communism, civil rights, and the antiwar movement into a singular, immeasurable menace and dedicated himself to eradicating it. The author looks at and behind the historical record, examining Hoover's public conduct and peering into the murky corners of his personal life, finding motivation for his fierce exertion of control in the suspicions about his sexuality and his race. Large black-and-white reproductions of photos, internal memos, and cultural artifacts document a troubled man on a mission. For all of his respect for his subject's complexity, Aronson's contempt is unmistakable. He draws overt parallels between Hoover's particular brand of fearmongering and the intractable contemporary polarity of American government. A full 30 pages of back matter include an epilogue, copious source notes, and an index (not seen). Most compelling is the afterword, wherein the author expresses the challenges and fears he faced exposing the underbelly of the FBI under Hoover, making this both a gripping historical investigation and an instructive example of the researched communication of ideas.--Barthelmess, Thom Copyright 2010 Booklist