Publishers Weekly, advance review, April 2, 2007.

Nonfiction Reviews: Week of 4/2/2007

by Staff — Publishers Weekly, 4/2/2007

Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare and the Assault on Civil Liberties
Kenneth D. Ackerman. Carroll & Graf, $28.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-78671-775-0

Ackerman, a Washington lawyer (Boss Tweed), examines the “red scare” hysteria that swept the country in 1919. The linchpin in the government’s actions was the notorious Palmer Raids, a series of raids and arrests ostensibly designed to rid the country of anarchists and Communists. Though many at the time believed J. Edgar Hoover played only a small role in the raids, in fact they were organized by Hoover, then only a 24-year-old Department of Justice agent who Ackerman describes as possessing an uncanny ability to please his superiors, a preternatural ability to attend to detail and a dangerously distorted moral compass. The mixture of Hoover and the other personalities prominent in the story—Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs and Felix Frankfurter, to name a few—makes for a compelling story that features demagogues; terrorists; a gullible, xenophobic public; rogue law enforcement officials; and good guys, both in and out of government, who discredit the raids. Ackerman captures well the pathological character of the young Hoover and argues effectively that there is a cautionary tale in the corrosive effect of the denial of civil liberties and extralegal measures employed in the red scare raids. Illus. (June)