INSIDE HOOVER'S FBI: The Top Field Chief Reports by Neil J. & David W. Marston Welch

INSIDE HOOVER'S FBI: The Top Field Chief Reports

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Breakaway Agent and the Absolute Boss. In hard-boiled, sardonic, thriller-prose, Welch and Marston (and/or, conceivably, a professional ghost) reconstruct Welch's career as a maverick FBI field agent, foe of organized-crime-and-corruption, in an FBI dominated by Hoover's obsession with paper-controls, preserving his position, and ""internal subversion."" The opening chapter, about the D-day-like arrangements for a rare Hoover descent on the Boston field office, is a hilarious burlesque of misplaced subterfuge and zeal. (""Four parking places directly in front of the busy hotel""--""magically"" freed by four agents, who ""had been there all night."" Luggage ""neatly stowed in the appropriate closet""--by agents who had battled through traffic aggravated by the Hoover-motorcade blitz.) But there is also an element here of Hoover-the-buffoon and Welch the white-hatted hero. (Marston isn't exactly a disinterested participant either: he was the Pa. DA in a Welch probe scotched by the FBI. Yet the book is written in an ambiguous third-person.) And it was Welch, some readers will recall, who conceived and executed ABSCAM, the capstone (if that's the word) of the undercover, informer operations, forbidden by Hoover, which he began surreptitiously in 1960s Buffalo. So the excitements of his Mafia-hunting and judge-jailing (notably in Detroit and Philadelphia), and the brusque good-sense of his opposition to domestic witch-hunts, don't call for all-out applause. There's lots of additional FBI scuttlebutt; not all of it negative. For one thing, the Hoover FBI's much-criticized reliance on Southern agents in the Mississippi civil-rights cases is presented as gut-wisdom, and effective. (""Unlike the Justice Department, he had avoided making Mississippi the enemy."") There are scathing tales, too, of the post-Hoover regimes of J. Patrick Gray and Clarence Kelley (whom Welch was a candidate to succeed). But the chronicle is non-consecutive, and the difficulty of assembling the pieces (or identifying some pieces with Welch), limits its utility as an insider history. It doesn't, finally, provide an account of ABSCAM. Some juicy episodes, then, overlaid with special-pleading.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday