Reviews for Secret Man : The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat


Booklist Reviews 2005 August #1
Most of Woodward's books follow a predictable formula: the fly-on-the-wall perspective, the sleight-of-hand sourcing, the omniscient narrative style. Perhaps that's why this unraveling of the Deep Throat mystery seems so out of character. True, Woodward had to publish in a hurry. When Mark Felt, the FBI's number-two man during the Watergate era, disclosed in Vanity Fair that he was Deep Throat, the rug was effectively pulled from under the book Woodward had been planning to write. So it's no surprise that this nearly instant book has a rushed feeling to it; what is surprising is that, unlike Woodward's typical productions, this one comes across as honest, personal, and slightly off balance, seemingly mirroring the author's own ambivalent feelings about his relationship with Felt. Usually Woodward is an unseen presence in his narratives, but this time he's in the middle of everything, explaining how the relationship between himself, at the time a young Washington Post reporter, and Felt evolved to the point that, when Watergate broke open, he felt comfortable about calling Felt directly. Felt's role, we learn, was more to confirm, deny, or steer in the right direction rather than leak, but the FBI man had his own agenda, stemming from being passed over for J. Edgar Hoover's job. He also had his own ambivalence about what he was doing. Equally interesting here is the chance to reprise the various journalistic decisions Woodward has made over the years--particularly relevant, in today's world, is the whole topic of protecting sources. A must for anyone who watched Watergate unfold, but there's plenty here of interest even for those who don't know their Jeb Magruders from their Charles Colsons. ((Reviewed August 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
Rushed into print after former FBI second-in-command W. Mark Felt was unmasked as Watergate's enigmatic arch-informant, this memoir reminds us that the scandal's lasting impact was less on politics than on journalism. Woodward recounts his cultivation of the avuncular Felt as mentor and source during his days as a cub reporter, the cloak-and-dagger parking garage meetings where Felt leaked conclusions from the FBI's Watergate investigation, Felt's ambivalence about his actions and the chilling of their post-Watergate relationship. The narrative drags in later years as the author showily wrestles with the ethics of revealing his source, even after a senile Felt begins blurting out the secret and his family pesters Woodward to confirm his identity. Woodward portrays Felt as a conflicted man with situational principles (he was convicted of authorizing the FBI's own Watergate-style illegal break-ins), motivated possibly by his resentment of White House pressure on the FBI for a cover-up, possibly by pique at being passed over for FBI chief. Unfortunately, Felt doesn't remember Watergate, so his reasons remain a mystery; Woodward's disappointment at the drying up of his oracle is palpable. What's clear is that Deep Throat laid the template for Woodward's career; his later reporting on cloistered institutions--the Supreme Court, the CIA, the Fed, various administrations--relied on highly-place, often unnamed insiders to unveil their secrets. It gave his reporting its omniscient tone, but, critics complain, drained it of perspective and made it a captive of his sources and their agendas. Woodward doesn't probe these issues very deeply, but he does open a window on the fraught relationships at the heart of journalism. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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