Spy romances of Cold War counterespionage evoke scenes of heroic FBI and CIA agents dedicated to smashing communism and its subversive coterie of intellectual fellow travelers bent on painting the world red. John Rodden cuts this tall tale down to its authentic pint size, refusing to indulge the public relations myth promoted by J.
Edgar Hoover's FBI. In Of G-Men and Eggheads, Rodden portrays federal agents' hilarious obsession with monitoring that ever-present threat to national security, the American literary intellectual.
Drawing on government dossiers and archives, Rodden focuses on the onetime members of a radical political sect of ex-Trotskyists (barely numbering a thousand at its height), the so-called New York intellectuals.
He describes the nonsensical decades-long pursuit of this group of intellectuals, especially Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, and Irving Howe.
The Keystone Cops style of numerous FBI agents is documented carefully in Rodden's meticulous case studies of how Hoover's men recruited informants to snoop on the "Commies," opened their personal mail, tracked their movements, and reported on their wives and friends.