Writers under Surveillance: The FBI Files

We rated this book:


There’s no denying the important work done by the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There’s also no denying that the organization’s past is more than a little shady, and that J. Edgar Hoover often used the Bureau’s resources to investigate and persecute anyone Hoover disapproved of, genuine threat or not.

Nowhere is that FBI dichotomy more apparent than in Writers Under Surveillance, a collection of declassified and released documents about various influential writers. From Hemingway and Vidal to Ayn Rand and Hunter S. Thompson, the writers who attracted the FBI’s attention were as eclectic as they were interesting, and the only thing more interesting than the writers were the often petty reasons for the investigations in the first place.

The section on James Baldwin in particular is eye-opening in its desperate, pathetic efforts to scrounge up something, ANYTHING on a man who irked Hoover. The amount of resources behind some of these investigations must’ve been staggering, and it makes you question not only what the Bureau was up to then, but what it’s up to now.

Writers Under Surveillance, compiled thanks to FOIA requests and dogged journalism, is both a fascinating glimpse behind the governmental curtain and a rallying call for greater awareness and skepticism.

Reviewed By:

Author JPat Brown, Editor • B. C. D. Lipton, Editor • Michael Morisy, Editor • Trevor Timm, Afterword • Cory Doctorow, Foreword
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 400 pages
Publisher The MIT Press
Publish Date 2018-Sep-18
ISBN 9780262536387
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue December 2018
Category History


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