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EMILY KAPLAN Drag out the Dossiers BY DEBORAH LUTTERBECK OFFICIAL AND CONFIDENTIAL: THE SECRET LIFE OF J. EDGAR HOOVER By Anthony Summers Illustrated. 438 pages. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. $25.95. IT’S A SHAME Truman Capote never got around to writing the definitive story of J. Edgar Hoover. According to Anthony Summers in Official and Confidential, his revisionist biography of the legendary FBI chief, Capote envisioned an expos of Hoover’s rumored love affair with his top aide, Clyde Tolson. But he never got beyond the title: Johnny and Clyde. Capote might have fused gossip and sensibility to produce, if not high art, at least the kind of literature that rises above its own gritty details. The Southern novelist could have done for the cop what he did for the criminal when he wrote In Cold Blood. Instead, we have Official and Confidential, which was the basis of a recent PBS report: “The Secret File on J. Edgar Hoover.” The book is long on that kind of nasty, hagiography-cracking detail that provides useful party chatter. Though it’s an easy-to-read compilation of innuendo, hearsay and the like, such a mix sometimes produces bizarre conclusions of often questionable credibility. But backihg up Summers’ work are 850 interviews and reviews of newly-released documents; and at least when Summers detonates a bombshell you know where it came from. And there are bombshells: J. Edgar is depicted as a closet drag queen; a self-hating mulatto; a toady to Texas oil interests; a puppet to organized crime; a kingmaker who blackmailed John Kennedy into making Lyndon Johnson his 1960 running mate; and a dupe who ignored early warnings of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If that isn’t enough, in the final chapters of Official and Confidential we find out Hoover had all the makings of a Nazi or at least the personality to make him one. As Summers sees it, the roots of Hoover’s problems are to be found in nurture rather than nature. There is the overbearing mama with whom Hoover lived for many of his adult years. There is the sickly and mentally unstable papa who haunted him. There Deborah Lutterbeck is a financial writer based in New York. was his own constant desire to please and to be good. And, to complete the pop psychology diagnosis, there is the common denominator of the wicked, that everpresent problem with self-esteem. But Hoover, was also an exceptional administrator. The combination of his organizational skills, a law degree, and a predilection for pandering and betrayal, kept him at the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. He did not hold that job because his nominal supervisors wanted him there. He held it because he was a guardian of other people’s secrets. And he knew how to use them, when to use the iron fist and when to use the velvet glove. The bill of particulars pres9nted by Summers in Official and Confidential, covers everything from Hoover’s framing of Alger Hiss and letting the mob get away with killing John Kennedy to his wearing elevator shoes to make up’ for his stature gap. Hoover often walked tallest among the big-money boys in Texas, where oilfield tycoons like Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson were unlikely to overlook the director of the FBI. Summers writes: “Recognizing Edgar’s influences as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar’s relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI. That Clint Murchison’ s milieu was reportedly infested with organized crime figures didn’t seem to concern Hoover, who considered Murchison ‘one of my closest friends’ .” It was a friendship that didn’t come cheap. Murchison provided Hoover with everything from paid vacations at his Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California, to no-risk investments. No detail was too small. As Summer’s writes, “Clint Murchison made sure Edgar and Clyde wanted for nothing at the Del Charro. When Edgar mentioned that on Florida vacations he ‘could pick fruit right from the trees at the door,’ he awoke the next morning to find his patio planted with orange, peach and plum trees, and a grapevine. The grapes, the staff recall, had been laboriously wired to the branches during the night.” Murchison, of course, picked up the check. In investments, Murchison was equally generous. As one source told Summers, Hoover “had a deal with Murchison where he invested in oil wells and if they hit oil, he got his share of the profits, but if they didn’t THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21