Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers

N - Z


Olmsted, Kathryn S. "Blond Queens, Red Spiders and Neurotic Old Maids: Gender and Espionage in the Early Cold War." Intelligence and National Security 19, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 78-94.

Elizabeth Bentley, Judith Coplon, Priscilla Hiss, and Ethel Rosenberg "received the most media coverage of any female Communist spies, and their cases best illustrate the gender constructions used to interpret them."

Shelton, Christina. Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason. New York: Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Clark comment: My review of this work, "Once Again, Alger Hiss," is published in International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 26, no. 1 (2013): 201-207. Until the number of Eprints allowed has been reached, the review is available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YxvuzPgsw2F9wWNqYS6k/full. Peake, Studies 56.4 (Dec. 2012) and Intelligencer 19.3 (Winter-Spring 2013), says "[f]or readers new to the topic, Shelton's work provides a good summary." But the "why" question is not answered here.

Klehr, Wall Street Journal, 20 Apr. 2012, finds that the author "provides a workmanlike account of Alger Hiss's journey" and "offers several provocative but not always convincing assertions about why Hiss's guilt remains such a polarizing matter.... Offering scant evidence," Shelton "asserts that Hiss steered American policy on China and the Soviet Union, even though policy is rarely susceptible to one person's influence." A Publishers Weekly, 6 Feb. 2012, reviewer takes note of "Shelton's conservative editorializing ... against liberals who aim ... to turn America into a latter-day Soviet Union."

For Weiner, Washington Times, 18 Apr. 2012, the author "has tried to make the subject her own, but most of her additions seem like filler -- digressions from the subject of Hiss.... The book re-packages others' research but not deftly." Radosh, Weekly Standard, 9 Apr. 2012, comments that "Shelton suffers from not being a historian.... For anyone who has read any of the earlier books, it all seems rather redundant. Shelton also commits some amazing errors."

Smith, John Chabot. Alger Hiss: The True Story. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1976.

From the "Hiss-was-framed" genre. Allen Weinstein, "Was Alger Hiss Framed?" New York Review of Books, 1 Apr. 1976, 16-18, is a negative contemporaneous review.

Swan, Patrick A., ed. Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers, and the Shism in the American Soul. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2003.

Whitfield, I&NS 18.3, calls this a "superb anthology" of nearly two dozen previously published essays. The work "basically endorses the verdict of 20 of the 24 jurors" in the two Hiss trials. The book's pro-Hiss essays "tend to ignore the documents that incriminated him and instead impugn the motives of his accuser."

Tanenhaus, Sam. "Hiss: Guilty as Charged." Commentary 95, no. 4 (Apr. 1993): 32-37.

Tanenhaus, Sam. Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.

Weinstein, Allen. Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. New York: Knopf, 1978. Toronto: Random House, 1978. Rev. ed. New York: Vintage, 1979. [pb] Newly rev. ed. New York: Random House, 1997. 3d rev. ed. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2013.

Clark comment: After spending almost 10 years searching for information to vindicate Hiss, Weinstein concluded that Hiss was guilty of perjury and espionage. This remains the book to read on the Hiss case, especially the newly revised edition with its additional material. The downside of the new edition is that it seems to stretch to justify itself.

Ehrman, Studies, Winter-Spring 2001, comments that "since Perjury appeared, no significant work has repeated the claim of a frame-up or argued that Hiss was innocent." Pforzheimer calls Perjury "an important study of a major case of communist espionage in the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s," while Petersen says it "is a meticulously researched scholarly treatment."

Victor Navasky, "Allen Weinstein's Docudrama," The Nation, 3 Nov. 1997, 11-16, remains unconvinced, and continues (Navasky, "The Case Not Proved Against Alger Hiss," The Nation, 8 Apr. 1978) to question Weinstein's use of his sources in arriving at his conclusion. Navasky argues that the revised edition of Perjury reprints interviews that have been challenged by the interviewees themselves "without indicating that they've been challenged." He also has reservations about the Venona transcripts, calling them "documents said to be decoded and annotated cable traffic ... between Moscow and its U.S. agents" (emphasis added.). Nevasky concludes that "it is at best a hazardous enterprise to attempt definitive readings of the tea leaves as soon as they are leaked, sold or selectively released by this or that intelligence source."

Allen Weinstein, "'Perjury,' Take Three," New Republic, 29 April 1978, 19-21, fires back at Navsky's criticisms of Perjury.

Weiser, Benjamin. "Nixon Lobbied Grand Jury to Indict Hiss in Espionage Case, Transcripts Reveal." New York Times, 12 Oct. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

The Justice Department has released about 4,200 pages of grand jury records from the investigation of Alger Hiss. The documents include the 51-page transcript of then-Congressman Richard Nixon's appearance before the grand jury on 13 December 1948.
White, G. Edward. Alger Hiss's Looking Glass War: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ehrman, Studies 49.1 (2005), says that the author "provides a convincing analysis of Hiss's reasons" for committing espionage. The book "does not reveal any new facts or evidence," but it "still is an important addition to the literature of the case. White's focus on personality -- grounded in thorough research -- provides a useful and insightful way to look at Hiss. The book not only answers the questions about Hiss's motives for spying and denying his actions but also strips away the façade of respectability that helped Hiss obscure the facts for so long." Except for a few spots, the author's prose "is clear and direct, and makes for fascinating reading."

For Mark, I&NS 21.1 (Feb. 2006), this is "arguably the best" book on the life of Alger Hiss. The author mostly "lets the evidence speak for itself, though not without demonstrations of the implausibilites of Hiss's ever-evolving defense."

Zeligs, Meyer. Friendship and Fratricide. New York: Viking, 1967.

Clark comment: The author's psychoanalysis of Chambers to show why he would frame Hiss was performed without access to Chambers. For a negative contemporaneous review, see Meyer Schapiro, "Dangerous Acquaintances," New York Review of Books, 23 Feb. 1967, 5-8.

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