Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 36%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 92%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (33) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $3.29   
  • Used (21) from $1.99   


For decades, a great number of Americans saw Alger Hiss as an innocent victim of McCarthyism—a distinguished diplomat railroaded by an ambitious Richard Nixon. And even as the case against Hiss grew over time, his dignified demeanor helped create an aura of innocence that outshone the facts in many minds.
Now G. Edward White deftly draws together the countless details of Hiss's life—from his upper middle-class childhood in Baltimore and his brilliant success at Harvard to his later career as a self-made martyr to McCarthyism—to paint a fascinating portrait of a man whose life was devoted to perpetuating a lie. White catalogs the evidence that proved Hiss's guilt, from Whittaker Chambers's famous testimony, to copies of State Department documents typed on Hiss's typewriter, to Allen Weinstein's groundbreaking investigation in the 1970s. The author then explores the central conundrums of Hiss's life: Why did this talented lawyer become a Communist and a Soviet spy? Why did he devote so much of his life to an extensive public campaign to deny his espionage? And how, without producing any new evidence, did he convince many people that he was innocent? White offers a compelling analysis of Hiss's behavior in the face of growing evidence of his guilt, revealing how this behavior fit into an ongoing pattern of denial and duplicity in his life.
The story of Alger Hiss is in part a reflection of Cold War America—a time of ideological passions, partisan battles, and secret lives. It is also a story that transcends a particular historical era—a story about individuals who choose to engage in espionage for foreign powers and the secret worlds they choose to conceal. In White's skilled hands, the life of Alger Hiss comes to illuminate both of those themes.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this inclusive, impressive, deeply pondered and finely spun study, G. Edward White has provided a definitive analysis of the Hiss case."—Washington Times "With his portrait of the man himself—as well as supporters, for whom almost no evidence was convincing—Mr. White has written the best book ever about Alger Hiss." — The Wall Street Journal "An extraordinary book, packed with information and fresh insights. Part detective story, part cultural history, part psychodrama—I couldn't put it down."—Cass Sunstein, author of Republic.Com "If you accept Hiss's guilt, as most historians now do, you will profit from G. Edward White's supplementary speculations about why, after prison, he waged a 42-year struggle for a vindication that could never be honestly gained."—Max Frankel, The New York Times Book Review
The New York Times
If you are too young to care much about Alger Hiss, move on. Turn away also if you recall the case and still believe Hiss never fed secrets to Soviet agents. But if you accept Hiss's guilt, as most historians now do, you will profit from G. Edward White's supplementary speculations about why, after prison, that serene and charming man sacrificed his marriage, exploited a son's love and abused the trust of fervent supporters to wage a 42-year struggle for a vindication that could never be honestly gained. — Max Frankel
Publishers Weekly
White (Oliver Wendell Holmes: Sage of the Supreme Court) is the son-in-law of John F. Davis, who served as Alger Hiss's counsel during a 1948 appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Nevertheless, White, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, cuts Hiss little slack, portraying him as that perhaps most base of creatures: an unrepentant and lifelong liar. As White clearly shows, Hiss not only lived a lie as a State Department official in the secret employ of the Soviets, but also thereafter, through decades of denial in the face of ever-mounting evidence. White contends that, as the years rolled on, Hiss found his raison d' tre in the useless charade of seeking vindication. White argues that had Hiss not maintained his innocence, "he would have been just one other undercover agent who had lied, betrayed his country, and gotten caught." In other words he would have been a mediocrity: an idea his wunderkind ego could not tolerate. But through persistent denial-and by encouraging unwitting supporters to champion his cause-Hiss was able to convince himself that the jig was not up, since his deceits continued to be believed in eloquently vocal quarters. Indeed, White writes that Hiss "tailor[ed his narrative of innocence] to suit the changing tastes of an elite segment of public opinion, from whom all of the information and perceptions about Hiss originated." But now, he notes, even that elite sees the light, and Hiss stands convicted once more. With its incisive analysis and readability, this is a worthwhile addition to the vast Hiss literature. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A generation of Americans grew up believing that there was a good possibility that Alger Hiss was innocent of his 1950 conviction of spying for the Soviets. Certainly, Hiss never wavered from his firm insistence that he had been framed by an overzealous FBI during the early Cold War years. His position began to unravel in the late 1970s, however, with the publication of Allen Weinstein's Perjury, which strongly argued for his guilt. That seminal work was followed in the 1990s (after the opening of the Soviet archives to Western researchers) by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes's Venona and by Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev's The Haunted Wood, which carefully outlined Soviet spying activities in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. White (Oliver Wendell Holmes) has delved once again into the tortured Hiss case and provides readers with remarkable insights into the character of a man who for over four decades denied his spying past. White's father-in-law helped defend Hiss in 1948, but White's own initial belief in his possible innocence was negated by further research. This is an intriguing portrait of an enigmatic man who stood center stage during the most electrifying moments of the Cold War. Recommended for all collections.-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195182552
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

G. Edward White is David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. His books include Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self and several other works of biography and law. His father-in-law, John F. Davis, served as Alger Hiss's counsel in a 1948 hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 Family and Marriage 3
2 Exposure 35
3 Prison 81
4 The Campaign for Vindication 117
5 The Campaign Gains Momentum 143
6 The Intervention of Allen Weinstein 173
7 The Russian Connection 201
8 Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars 237
Afterword 251
Notes 255
Index 289
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)