Columbo: The Hoover Files

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9780754040118: Columbo: The Hoover Files

In Columbo's newest adventure, a tell-all biographer threatens to expose scathing secrets buried in the notorious Hoover files. But a retired FBI agent will stop at nothing to protect the memory of "The Director"--including murder. "That rumpled raincoat is as convincing in the mind's eye as it is on the small screen".--"New York Daily News".

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Though this was the fourth time she had visited the place, Betsy Clendenin could never enter this California women's prison without a shudder. The women's stares--many curious, some wistful, some hostile--distressed her. She knew what she was to them: a handsome, well-dressed, confident woman, free to come and go. They were conspicuously envious, most of them, of her fur-collared beige suede coat and would be more envious if they could see her royal blue suede mini-dress. She was conscious--no, self-conscious--of the contrast between her and them.
"I read your latest, Miss Clendenin," said the uniformed woman officer who conducted her across the campus, into the building that housed the visiting facility. "Tough stuff. I had no idea. I supposed Jonathan was a real straight talented guy."
"They say celebrity is its own reward, that you can get away with anything if you're a celebrity and pile up enough money. And it is that way until somebody finds you out and exposes you."
"I read somewhere that his latest disk isn't selling at all. I guess people are turned off on him."
"Disgusted is the word."
"I expect Mrs. Cooper-Svan will be gland to see you."
"'m always glad to see her. I'm damned sorry she's here."
"Hey, I'm sorry she's here. I guess we're all sorry she's here. But you beat your husband's brains out, you wind up in this kind of place. Particularly if Lieutenant Columbo works your case. We got two other women here because of Lieutenant, Colombo. Remember Erika Björling, the game-show squealer? She's here for the same reason: Lieutenant Columbo. He's got a rep in this place."
"Gunnar Svan had it coming," said Betsy Clendenin.
"I figure he did," said the officer. "Which is why she got ten years instead of life."
"She still working in the cafeteria?"
"Yeah. Doesn't seem to want any other kind of job. Actually, her real work is what she does in her cell. Reads. Marks up manuscripts--editing, I guess you call it. You know, she's got a typewriter, writes some stuff; I don't know what. Technically, she's not supposed to run a business from here, so I guess we've bent the rules a little for her. She's taken it hard, being her. I hate to think what her time here would do to her if we didn't let her run her magazine from her cell."
"She doesn't actually run it," said Betsy. "She couldn't. What she does is some editing, and she makes some choices and decisions about what will be published. Also, she writes a column that's published under another name. But the day-to-day operations--Of course, she still owns it."
"She's rich woman. She's going to have a good life when she's paroled in two, three more years. All of us here wish her well."
* * *
Ai-ling Cooper-Svan did not thrive on imprisonment. Except when she was working in her cell, she was lethargic--just enduring, doing her time. Having been here as long as she had and having no bad marks on her record, she was entitled to wear street clothes; but she didn't; she wore the blue denim jumpsuit the institution issued her. The straight black hair she had always kept so carefully styled now simply hung around her ears, just cut, with no style at all. She was of course descended from generations of Chinese women, and from generations of Yankee sea captains who had married those Chinese women--so her face was round; she had a pug nose and black eyes. She had gained a little weight, which showed even through the jumpsuit. She shook hands with Betsy and sat down at a square wooden table. Immediately she pulled a package of Marlboros from her pocket and used a paper match to light a cigarette.
"Bill told me you've got something for me," said Ai-ling Cooper, who was trying to drop the Svan, the name of the abusive husband she had killed. "Got it with you?"
Betsy gestured to the officer who was examining the contents of her little briefcase. The woman brought the briefcase to the table and handed it to her. Betsy pulled out a manuscript.
"Who's getting it in the balls this time?" asked Ai-ling.
"John Edgar Hoover," said Betsy with a little smile.
"Been done, hasn't it?"
"Not what I've got. When I publish what I've got, they'll take his name off to FBI building in Washington."
"What's this, a chapter?"
"A chapter. I can't let you have the hottest stuff just yet. I've got to save something to make the book sell. But what I've got here will work for Glitz."
"We've always done well by each other," said Ai-ling. "How many pieces have you run in Glitz? Six?"
"Right--including two you've brought here to my luxury retreat."
"What you need is a pardon."
"Well--Maybe it's not impossible. I've made Glitz more political since I've been here. You know, figuring maybe I could build up some influence. Off the record."
"Of course."
"You see the cartoon?"
Ai-ling referred to a cartoon that appeared in a San Francisco paper after Glitz magazine made its first political endorsement. The cartoon showed the endorsed candidate kneeling outside Ai-ling's cell while she reached through the bars with a sword and dubbed him knight.
Ai-ling picked up the manuscript Betsy had brought her and glanced at it. She grinned as she read--
Eleanor Roosevelt called them "disgusting." FDR had to be at some pains to prevent her saying publicly that she found the openly erotic relationship between. J. Edgar Hoover and his boyfriend Clyde Tolson nauseating.
Why was Hoover not forced out of the closet? Because by the time he and Tolson arrogantly flaunted their homosexuality, the Director had become so powerful that he supposed he could do anything he wished, without fear of disclosure or criticism.
Almost everyone who knew the facts and could have exposed him was under threat of blackmail. Director Hoover had for years used the FBI as a personal fiefdom, and much of the work of its agents was given over to building dossiers against anyone he regarded as a potential enemy. Much of the "information" contained in those files was gossip at best, outright fraud in many instances, but it was "information" its subjects did not want publicized by the powerful-and eminently (though fraudulently) credible--Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Fraud? Yes. John Edgar Hoover was never the anti-Communist zealot he trumpeted himself to be. His FBI was ineffective against subversion. He pretended to be anti-Communist to distract attention from the fact that he had entered into an unholy alliance with the Mob, agreeing to lay off organized crime in return for...God knows what.
Ai-ling put down the manuscript: some thirty pages. "You've got a deal," she said. "I may change a word or two, but you've got a deal."
"I've got a whole lot more than what you see there," said Betsy. "A whole lot worse. I've got information to the effect that Hoover disclosed confidential FBI files to Roy Cohn, to help him in his defense against criminal charges. I'm trying to get in touch with a retired agent named Kloss, who may know something about it. He was assigned to FBI doesn't want to talk to me, but he's gonna have to."
"Bring me some of that, and we've got a real big-money deal. Meanwhile, don't talk so much on TV," said Ai-ling. "I want at least some of this stuff to be new when we run it."
Copyright ©1998 by MCA Publishing Rights, a Division of MCA, Inc.

From Booklist:

Betsy Clendenin, a Kitty Kelley^-like master of the unauthorized biography, is to show-biz public relations what Saddam Hussein is to Middle East peace. Her new project concerns J. Edgar Hoover; Betsy has unearthed new dirt regarding information passed between J. Edgar Hoover, the Mafia, and Roy Cohn. Unfortunately, whatever Betsy learned goes up in flames--along with Betsy herself--when her house explodes. Enter everyone's favorite rumpled detective, Lieutenant Columbo of the LAPD. Just like on TV, we know who the killer is almost from the start; the fun is watching Columbo tighten the noose through his special mix of oblique questioning, self-deprecating asides, and shrewd insight into the criminal mind. Harrington continues to do a great job with this series, mixing in historical figures and some very amusing banter between Columbo and everyone else. An additional plus is an attention to forensic detail that matches any of the more serious procedurals. Entertaining reading. Wes Lukowsky

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