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Secrets: A Writer in the Cold War

The legacy of the Cold War is explored as Brodeur describes his career as an investigative reporter for The New Yorker, and crosses swords with the FBI, the CIA, the military, and the State Department. The author accuses the Department of lying to its employees and the American people about the Soviet irradiation of the American Embassy in Moscow, and backs it up by revealing testimony of the daughter of Ambassador Walter Stoessel, who died of leukemia he developed while stationed in Moscow.

In Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part III, Michael Corleone says of the Mafia, which he is trying to leave, "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.'' Such is the experience of the New Yorker's Brodeur (The Great Power-Line Cover- Up, 1993, etc.), who joined the American intelligence community shortly after WW II. Brodeur retired disgusted with the regular extortion, browbeating, and lack of regard for human dignity in their interrogations of suspected spies in divided postwar Germany.

Unfortunately, as Brodeur goes on to uncover the environmental threats that made him famous (asbestos, microwave radiation, etc.), he finds the military-industrial complex cropping up again and again, with old associates turning up to spy on him under the guise of friendship. While much of Secrets concerns Brodeur's discoveries of the scandals about which he has written, he also turns the lens on himself, using his novelist's flair for allegory to include bits about his personal secrets--an older brother whose existence his father had kept from him, his own two-year-old son's death from choking, his broken first marriage.

While this information gives an insight into Brodeur that we haven't had before, the writer is still strongest when exposing the powers that be, whether it is CIA involvement in covert operations all over the globe since the Eisenhower administration, giving special attention to those areas we know less about, such as the Congo or Indonesia, or whether it's J. Edgar Hoover's destruction of the life of actress Jean Seberg, who committed suicide over her support of the Black Panthers. Brodeur covers post Cold War America with a broad indictment of Justice Department foul-ups in Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Olympic bombing in Atlanta. Sexagenarian Brodeur has produced a retrospective that proves his writing can still pack a punch.

Kirkus Reviews



Despite its lack of an uplifting sermon, this book deserves as many readers as can pass the security clearance. Mr. Brodeur writes honestly and well, with humor, an acute sense of history and a fine gift for phrase.

Lewis H. Lapham, The New York Times Book Review