No Left Turns by Joseph L. Schott
New York : Praeger Publishers, 1975. Second printing. Stated. Hardcover. 214 pages ; 22 cm. $7.95 dust jacket. No markings to pages. Binding's firm.
"NO LEFT TURNS is hilarious, charitable and decent." —George V. Higgins
Imagine the FBI as created, written, and directed by Woody Allen. Imagine the Marx brothers in A Night at the FBI. Imagine the FBI as a real-life Catch-22 with J. Edgar Hoover as Colonel Cathcart grown old on Pianosa.
Imagine the FBI through the eyes of a field agent who actually served in the FBI for 23 years—an agent who was not bedazzled by mystique and bureaucratic fiat and propaganda, a man who saw absurdity for what it was. That agent has dug into his bag of memories and written No LEFT TURNS.
No LEFT TURNS is a book about peace and war in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. It is a book about the slapstick war between Olympus, the Seat of Government in Washington, and the Field, a fiefdom held personally by the Director and composed of the rest of the United States. It is a book about the games FBI people played to survive both peace and war, and about some of the casualties.
This is the way the Bureau was: A field office in Dallas is paralyzed by an expected visit of the Director and prepares to indulge his slightest whim. A Special Agent in Charge retreats to his bed. The Director orders the removal of a pinhead in a New Agents class. The Clod Squad descends to condemn complacency. Reprisals are dealt out against agents who break the cardinal rule and "embarrass the Bureau."
Here, in short, is a book about institutional insanity, created at the top, catered to in the middle, causing grown men, officers of the federal government, to act like characters in a vaudeville skit.
Like many works of comedy, No LEFT TURNS is, finally, a disturbingly serious book.
JOSEPH L. SCHOTT joined the FBI in 1948 and was a special agent assigned to a field office until his retirement in 1971. He is the author of Above and Beyond, The Ordeal of Sqmar, and Rails Across Panama. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He has never met Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
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