23 June 2022, The Tablet

Out to get you


The People Vs J Edgar Hoover

BARELY 10 SECONDS of this scrupulously researched eight-parter (13-23 June; also available as a podcast) had gone by before the air was
thick with the sound of dirt being flung at the all-too-solid figure of its subject. Doubt, paranoia, fear – the procession of abstract nouns issuing from the mouth of its jaunty presenter, Emily Maitlis, had no end, and it came as no surprise to learn that The People Vs J Edgar Hoover’s underlying message was a blunt “sometimes it’s true that they’re all out to get you”.

As for J. Edgar, dead these 50 years but appointed to the first iteration of the FBI as long ago as 1924, there was no disguising his prodigious oddity. A career solitary who lived with his mother until the age of 43, he was by turns a snappy dresser, a creature of habit (even President Johnson was told not to bother to call during his Saturday afternoon sojourns at the racetrack) and the sharpest of federal operators, able to turn almost every setback and professional embarrassment to his advantage.


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