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The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

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The first book ever written about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by a member of his personal staff—his former assistant, Paul Letersky—offers unprecedented, “clear-eyed and compelling” (Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Mindhunter) insight into an American legend. The 1960s and 1970s were arguably among America’s most turbulent post-Civil War decades. While the Vietnam War continued The first book ever written about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by a member of his personal staff—his former assistant, Paul Letersky—offers unprecedented, “clear-eyed and compelling” (Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Mindhunter) insight into an American legend. The 1960s and 1970s were arguably among America’s most turbulent post-Civil War decades. While the Vietnam War continued seemingly without end, protests and riots ravaged most cities, the Kennedys and MLK were assassinated, and corruption found its way to the highest levels of politics, culminating in Watergate. In 1965, at the beginning of the chaos, twenty-two-year-old Paul Letersky was assigned to assist the legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who’d just turned seventy and had, by then, led the Bureau for an incredible forty-one years. Hoover was a rare and complex man who walked confidently among the most powerful. His personal privacy was more tightly guarded than the secret “files” he carefully collected—and that were so feared by politicians and celebrities. Through Letersky’s close working relationship with Hoover, and the trust and confidence he gained from Hoover’s most loyal senior assistant, Helen Gandy, Paul became one of the few able to enter the Director’s secretive—and sometimes perilous—world. Since Hoover’s death half a century ago, millions of words have been written about the man and hundreds of hours of TV dramas and A-list Hollywood films produced. But until now, there has been virtually no account from someone who, for a period of years, spent hours with the Director on a daily basis. Balanced, honest, and keenly observed, this “vivid, foibles-and-all portrait of the fabled scourge of gangsters, Klansmen, and communists” (The Wall Street Journal) sheds new light on one of the most powerful law enforcement figures in American history.


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The first book ever written about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by a member of his personal staff—his former assistant, Paul Letersky—offers unprecedented, “clear-eyed and compelling” (Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Mindhunter) insight into an American legend. The 1960s and 1970s were arguably among America’s most turbulent post-Civil War decades. While the Vietnam War continued The first book ever written about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by a member of his personal staff—his former assistant, Paul Letersky—offers unprecedented, “clear-eyed and compelling” (Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Mindhunter) insight into an American legend. The 1960s and 1970s were arguably among America’s most turbulent post-Civil War decades. While the Vietnam War continued seemingly without end, protests and riots ravaged most cities, the Kennedys and MLK were assassinated, and corruption found its way to the highest levels of politics, culminating in Watergate. In 1965, at the beginning of the chaos, twenty-two-year-old Paul Letersky was assigned to assist the legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who’d just turned seventy and had, by then, led the Bureau for an incredible forty-one years. Hoover was a rare and complex man who walked confidently among the most powerful. His personal privacy was more tightly guarded than the secret “files” he carefully collected—and that were so feared by politicians and celebrities. Through Letersky’s close working relationship with Hoover, and the trust and confidence he gained from Hoover’s most loyal senior assistant, Helen Gandy, Paul became one of the few able to enter the Director’s secretive—and sometimes perilous—world. Since Hoover’s death half a century ago, millions of words have been written about the man and hundreds of hours of TV dramas and A-list Hollywood films produced. But until now, there has been virtually no account from someone who, for a period of years, spent hours with the Director on a daily basis. Balanced, honest, and keenly observed, this “vivid, foibles-and-all portrait of the fabled scourge of gangsters, Klansmen, and communists” (The Wall Street Journal) sheds new light on one of the most powerful law enforcement figures in American history.

30 review for The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    I picked this up on a whim because I’ve always loved spy stories but I honestly expected it to be a little dry. It turns out that Letersky is an excellent writer and the book was captivating. The audiobook’s narrator had a fabulously gravelly voice that seemed appropriate for an FBI Special Agent. Letersky’s stories and observations about J. Edgar Hoover were fascinating but it was his friendship with Miss Gandy that brought the heart to the story. Hoover is a controversial figure but Letersky p I picked this up on a whim because I’ve always loved spy stories but I honestly expected it to be a little dry. It turns out that Letersky is an excellent writer and the book was captivating. The audiobook’s narrator had a fabulously gravelly voice that seemed appropriate for an FBI Special Agent. Letersky’s stories and observations about J. Edgar Hoover were fascinating but it was his friendship with Miss Gandy that brought the heart to the story. Hoover is a controversial figure but Letersky provides a balanced and contextualized look at him. I really enjoyed the insight into this slice of history. Thank you to @simon.audio for this review copy. The opinions are my own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I completely devoured this memoir in one sitting courtesy of NetGalley. The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover by Paul Letersky completely drew me in from the first sentence--nobody cried at his funeral. Peter Letersky, a former FBI Agent, details his early days as an FBI desk assistant giving glorified tours to the public, essentially writing Hoover's replies to fan mail and doing basically whatever grunt work is asked of him when he gets promoted to working directly for Hoover. I'm a I completely devoured this memoir in one sitting courtesy of NetGalley. The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover by Paul Letersky completely drew me in from the first sentence--nobody cried at his funeral. Peter Letersky, a former FBI Agent, details his early days as an FBI desk assistant giving glorified tours to the public, essentially writing Hoover's replies to fan mail and doing basically whatever grunt work is asked of him when he gets promoted to working directly for Hoover. I'm a huge fan of memoirs that tell us how the sausage is made or give a little inside baseball, and this is exactly that for those who are curious about what it was like to work for the FBI toward the end of its glory days as well as in the turbulent, culture shift from the 1950s to 1970s. There are lots of intriguing anecdotes about Letersky's daily interactions with Hoover, his early days as a desk jockey as well as his eventual field work as a special agent. By far my favorite "character" lurking in these pages was Helen Gandy, a totally unknown female historical figure--and the highest ranked (G-17) and highest paid woman ever at a government agency--that I was very pleased to learn about. It made me want to dig deeper into her life as well. For me this was a total page turner--informative and engrossing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mickey

    Like most readers, I'm sure I had or even still have an opinion concerning J. Edgar Hoover, either good or bad. Reading this biography did not change that opinion of the man however, it did correct a few of my misconceptions. Paul Letersky chronicles his association with Hoover from when it began in the '60's, to the Director's death in the 1970's. The POV is clearly that of someone who admired the subject being discussed, even though Mr. Letersky attempts to juxtapose the positive with occasion Like most readers, I'm sure I had or even still have an opinion concerning J. Edgar Hoover, either good or bad. Reading this biography did not change that opinion of the man however, it did correct a few of my misconceptions. Paul Letersky chronicles his association with Hoover from when it began in the '60's, to the Director's death in the 1970's. The POV is clearly that of someone who admired the subject being discussed, even though Mr. Letersky attempts to juxtapose the positive with occasional criticisms as well. For that reason, I recommend this book to anyone interested in increasing their knowledge of U.S. history and one of the people who influenced it. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest and unbiased review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I was intrigued by this book because the author worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover. The first part of the book explores what it was like to work within the FBI in headquarters and later he describes his work in field offices including in Hijacking cases. Fascinating read! I felt like I had a good inside view of the inner workings of the FBI as well as relationships with the Presidents and Attorney Generals. In general, Letersky tries to paint a balanced view and is clearly biased in favor of J. I was intrigued by this book because the author worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover. The first part of the book explores what it was like to work within the FBI in headquarters and later he describes his work in field offices including in Hijacking cases. Fascinating read! I felt like I had a good inside view of the inner workings of the FBI as well as relationships with the Presidents and Attorney Generals. In general, Letersky tries to paint a balanced view and is clearly biased in favor of J. Edgar Hoover. Some of what he says I take with a grain of salt about how he depicts "the bad guys" but he does talk about some of the arrests he had to make that he did not feel comfortable with so that helped convince me that he was not just touting the party line. In general, this was a very interesting read and I definitely learned new things about J. Edgar Hoover's personality as well as others.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    An easy to read, intriguing look into J Edgar Hoover. Told by a former FBI agent who was just beginning his career, when he was assigned as basically an office assistant to Hoover's DC office. There he witnessed the intrigues, the maneuvering, the strategies, and the conspiracies that Hoover employed and was subject to. Letersky manages to make Hoover a much more human character than I was used to, full of good points and bad. Capable of instilling an almost god-like aura from those who worked f An easy to read, intriguing look into J Edgar Hoover. Told by a former FBI agent who was just beginning his career, when he was assigned as basically an office assistant to Hoover's DC office. There he witnessed the intrigues, the maneuvering, the strategies, and the conspiracies that Hoover employed and was subject to. Letersky manages to make Hoover a much more human character than I was used to, full of good points and bad. Capable of instilling an almost god-like aura from those who worked for him. I enjoyed the insights into Hoover's life, as well as the political jockeying from those who were around him. Despite the excesses Hoover might have participated in, I think that we were lucky to have him as a steady hand through some of our country's most confusing times. I found the book hard to put down.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Peter Ackerman

    The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover by Paul Letersky is a wholly fascinating read. The author, a former FBI Agent, recounts his early days when he worked in the Director’s Office, in Washington D.C., during Hoover’s later years as the head of the organization. The author comes out right in the beginning and lets the reader know that this is not going to be one of the many works about Hoover based on rumor and supposition. Instead, he provides the reader with what it was like, from The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover by Paul Letersky is a wholly fascinating read. The author, a former FBI Agent, recounts his early days when he worked in the Director’s Office, in Washington D.C., during Hoover’s later years as the head of the organization. The author comes out right in the beginning and lets the reader know that this is not going to be one of the many works about Hoover based on rumor and supposition. Instead, he provides the reader with what it was like, from the perspective of one of the few who worked in the outer office and encountered his boss daily. The first third of the autobiography is strong. The author recounts how he fell in love with agency and was called to serve within. Throughout this portion of the book, there are plenty of interesting anecdotes, many of them having to with his observations each day in the office. With the opening strong, I was not surprised to see the middle portion of the work lag just a bit. As soon as Mr. Letersky leaves Hoover’s office, the reader gets a look at what it was like for him in the field, with more interesting recounting, but of course these lack direct insight to Hoover. Still, it all comes together in the final section. Paul is called back to the Office to serve as a companion at the funeral to Hoover’s secretary. This leads to more of his firsthand observations, and insights. For those who are interested in the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, the ways of D.C. in the 1970’s, there is plenty of interest here. Though the read slowed a bit for me in the middle, as described above, I still found it an engaging page turner.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie Rothenfluh

    (Rounded up from a 2.8) I was expecting more of a look at Mr. Hoover but, while the author was an FBI agent for 8 years, he only worked in the director’s office for 2 years and had little direct contact with Hoover. This is mostly a quick overview of the author’s career and his friendship with Hoover’s secretary, Miss Gandy. I found Letersky to be somewhat of an apologist for Hoover (yes some of the things he did were wrong, but he acted on presidential orders or in the interest of The Bureau, et (Rounded up from a 2.8) I was expecting more of a look at Mr. Hoover but, while the author was an FBI agent for 8 years, he only worked in the director’s office for 2 years and had little direct contact with Hoover. This is mostly a quick overview of the author’s career and his friendship with Hoover’s secretary, Miss Gandy. I found Letersky to be somewhat of an apologist for Hoover (yes some of the things he did were wrong, but he acted on presidential orders or in the interest of The Bureau, etc.).

  8. 5 out of 5

    R G

    This is not an attempt at an objective historical work or biography, but memoir of the author's early years at the FBI. I found it very interesting on that basis. There are many interesting stories about Hoover and how the FBI worked in the late 60's and early 70's. I learned a lot that I would not have learned from a traditional Hoover biography. The author is quite transparent about his biases and background, which I appreciated. This is not an attempt at an objective historical work or biography, but memoir of the author's early years at the FBI. I found it very interesting on that basis. There are many interesting stories about Hoover and how the FBI worked in the late 60's and early 70's. I learned a lot that I would not have learned from a traditional Hoover biography. The author is quite transparent about his biases and background, which I appreciated.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim Ward

    Enjoyable, enlightening and factual account of the author’s personal experiences working for the FBI in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, in particular his direct and/or nearly firsthand knowledge of working under J.Edgar Hoover. Particularly well told story as the author weaves in the societal changes, political machinations, and national security issues of that time, set amongst his own personal stories of working for the FBI. Very enjoyable!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karol K

    I enjoyed reading this book and learning the process to become an FBI agent. It is nice to learn the real story about Hoover. The author's writing was very easy to read. I cracked up when I read about their practice of holding their ID right up high about your eyeballs. I experienced that phenomenon back in the 70's and yes that is intimidating. I recommend this book if you are at all curious about the agency. I enjoyed reading this book and learning the process to become an FBI agent. It is nice to learn the real story about Hoover. The author's writing was very easy to read. I cracked up when I read about their practice of holding their ID right up high about your eyeballs. I experienced that phenomenon back in the 70's and yes that is intimidating. I recommend this book if you are at all curious about the agency.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I enjoyed reading this account of the FBI under J Edgar Hoover. Not really knowing much about this but knowing about the times during which Hoover was director I found fascination with how things were done and why and am proud of our government historically.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    An honest look at the F.B.I. under. J Edgar Hoover. Paul Letersky was there as his assistant and a former Special Agent. It’s a rare glimpse into a storied man

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ezra

    Loved it and made me want to read more!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marge

    Most interesting read about the workings of the FBI under Hoover. He was a total autocrat. In his time it was necessary but his days were numbered in the end,

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adam Conn

  16. 4 out of 5

    Harry McShane

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Cribb

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen Carter

  21. 4 out of 5

    douglas doolittle and marie doolittle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bill Bride

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  24. 5 out of 5

    John C Anthony

  25. 5 out of 5

    William R. Tedford

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Senseney

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Andersen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rick Long

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chad Wichmann

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