Synopses & Reviews
In Washington, D.C., where little stays secret for long, the identity of Deep Throat the mysterious source who helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break open the Watergate scandal in 1972 remained hidden for 33 years. Now, Woodward tells the story of his long, complex relationship with W. Mark Felt, the enigmatic former No. 2 man in the Federal Bureau of Investigation who helped end the presidency of Richard Nixon.
The Secret Man chronicles the story in intimate detail, from Woodward's first, chance encounter with Felt in the Nixon White House, to their covert, middle-of-the-night meetings in an underground parking garage, to the aftermath of Watergate and decades beyond, until Felt finally stepped forward at age 91 to unmask himself as Deep Throat.
The Secret Man reveals the struggles of a patriotic career FBI man, an admirer of J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau's legendary director. After Hoover's death, Mark Felt found himself in the crossfire of one of Washington's historic contests, as Nixon and his men tried to dominate the Bureau and cover up the crimes of the administration. This book illuminates the ongoing clash between temporary political power and the permanent bureaucracy of government. Woodward explores Felt's conflicts and motives as he became Deep Throat, not only secretly confirming Woodward and Bernstein's findings from dozens of other sources, but giving a sense of the staggering sweep of Nixon's criminal abuses.
In this volume part memoir, part morality tale, part political and journalistic history Woodward provides context and detail about the Washington Post's expose of Watergate. He examines his later, tense relationship with Felt, when the FBI man stood charged with authorizing FBI burglaries. (Not knowing Felt's secret role in the demise of his own presidency, Nixon testified at Felt's trial, and Ronald Reagan later pardoned him.) Woodward lays bare his own personal struggles as he tries to define his relationship, his obligations, and his gratitude to this extraordinary confidential source.
The Secret Man is an intense, 33-year journey, providing a one-of-a-kind study of trust, deception, pressures, alliances, doubts and a lifetime of secrets. Woodward has spent more than three decades asking himself why Mark Felt became Deep Throat. Now the world can see what happened and why, bringing to a close one of the last chapters of Watergate.
"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. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[C]ompelling and highly readable....What The Secret Man does most of all is to raise questions about two things: the motives of informants and the duties journalists owe their sources." The Washington Post
"The Secret Man provides an intriguing if not fully satisfying portrait of the real-life relationship between Mr. Woodward and Mr. Felt, and it reaffirms the vital role that confidential sources play in keeping the public informed." Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times
"While his retelling is often choppy and adds little to our knowledge about the crimes and betrayals, Woodward's account is eye-opening as he describes the slow and tortuous building of trust between two men...who brought the web of deceit into public light." Boston Globe
"Much of The Secret Man is rehashed from Woodward's previous books, but the sections recounting his late-night meetings with Felt in an underground parking garage still provide a jolt of excitement." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"If Bob Woodward were in journalism school, his professor might have handed back his new book, The Secret Man, as incomplete." The Los Angeles Times
"Deep Throat was a small part of the Watergate canvas, but a crucial one. In this slim book, Woodward gives us the bare bones of a deep and enduring story." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"There are a few new tidbits....But the answers to some of the more perplexing questions remain elusive....What we get instead is still valuable an inside look at the give-and-take involved in the often-dicey relationships between journalists and their sources." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Bob Woodward's The Secret Man is a detailed account of his relationship with W. Mark Felt, better known as Deep Throat. Woodward describes how he first met the former FBI official who became the legendary secret source that was so critical to the Washington Post's coverage of the Watergate scandal.
About the Author
Bob Woodward, a reporter and editor at the Washington Post
for 33 years, has authored or coauthored nine No. 1 national nonfiction bestsellers. The first, All the President's Men
(1974), with Carl Bernstein, was on Watergate, and was followed by Bush at War
, Woodward's account of America's response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan, and Plan of Attack
(2004), the definitive account of how and why President George W. Bush and allies launched a preemptive attack to topple Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq.
Woodward has two daughters, Tali and Diana. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Elsa Walsh, a writer for the New Yorker.