DONOVAN: America's Master Spy by Richard Dunlop

DONOVAN: America's Master Spy

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By comparison with Anthony Cave Brown's bio of OSS chief Donovan (above), this is a lightweight, if also sizable, effort (575 as against 800 pages--but of larger type too). Dunlop is an OSS veteran and the book is keyed, moreover, to a coming OSS celebration. But though you won't find here any approximation of Cave Brown's candor (re individual OSS disasters or total OSS performance)--nor his breadth of coverage, depth of detail, or degree of expertise--you will find some compensations. Dunlop's text (like Cave Brown's) is erratic. A sentimentalized dramatization of Donovan's Buffalo childhood (with, however, some strong local color) and of his WW I command of N.Y.'s ""Fighting Irish"" (with no mitigating virtues) gives way to a reasonably direct, fairly lively account of the inter-war years, featuring just what Cave Brown slights: Donovan's politics (he was for years the nation's #1 Irish-Catholic Republican conservative); his legal work (the anti-trust cases, the growth of Donovan, Leisure); and, concurrently, his myriad ""fact-finding"" missions--to Siberia in 1919, Ethiopia in '35, Spain in '36, among them. (The Mussolini meeting is a standout.) Sometimes, true, Cave Brown's more extensive research gives him a clear edge--as on Hoover's failure to name Donovan Attorney General, or even Secretary of War, the major setback to his hopes for high public office (including the presidency). On Donovan and the OSS (less than 200 pages here) Dunlop enthuses--making no attempt at a coherent, consecutive history. But he does convey a sense of Donovan's avid, omnivorous curiosity: How did George Orwell think ""British social institutions were standing up under the strain of war""? What could Arthur Goldberg's European labor contacts contribute? Indeed, the anecdotal material, disorganized and unevaluated though it is, covers all the sorts of things (from social-science research to the invention of nutty gadgets) that espionage-pros like Cave Brown pass over. Almost wholly superficial--but with clear attractions, especially for uninitiates.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1982
Publisher: Rand McNally