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To many, the name Pinkerton is indelibly associated with the agency's former role in supplying anti-labor goons and infiltrators during such bitter disputes as the Homestead Strike of 1892. In the interest of telling a good detective story, Cook minimizes this aspect of the Pinkertons' work, dealing at length only with James McParland's infiltration of the controversial Molly Maguires. In other cases, as Cook notes, the agency was notable for its moral and legal integrity and for the acting ability of its agents, who successfully passed themselves off as mafia counterfeitors or English lords. Pinkerton detectives were not always successful; the capture of the notorious Reno brothers was clouded by the inability of the Pinkertons to protect their captives from lynch mobs. and Allan Pinkerton's own duel of wits with the confederate spy Mrs. Rose Greenhow was a comedy of amateurism and incompetence on both sides. Cook notes in passing the irony of Allan Pinkerton's youthful association with the radical Chartist movement in his native Scotland and his early admiration for John Brown, but he doesn't really encourage us to ponder the detective's shift to pro-establishment views, nor does he have a great deal to say about the less dramatic methods of his operatives. Non-fiction dicks and robbers, for those who care to identify with the original private eye.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1974
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Doubleday