More than 50 years after it began, the Hiss case continues to generate an extraordinary number of books – some scholarly, some openly partisan – that come to very different conclusions both about the evidence and about the trustworthiness of the witnesses and lawyers involved. Browse or jump ahead to the section which interests you:
- The Hiss Case
- The Cold War or the McCarthy era
- Books that mention Alger Hiss or related figures
- Young Adult Non-Fiction
- Alger Hiss in fiction
The Hiss Case
(The following books deal specifically with the Hiss Case, in whole or in part.)
Bert Andrews and Peter Andrews
A Tragedy of History: A Journalist’s Confidential Role in The Hiss-Chambers Case, Robert B. Luce, Washington D.C.: 1962.
Bert Andrews, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, went from covering the case to being a close adviser to Richard Nixon – while the story was breaking. This is his story.
A scathing book that reads like a thriller, by an award-winning, Oxford-based American novelist who knew Alger Hiss but only looked closely into his case after his death. After a thorough review of the evidence, she concludes, as she told an interviewer from The Guardian, that “this is probably the biggest and longest-lasting cover-up in history.” For more about Brady’s book, see this notice.
Chambers’ best-selling autobiography presents his side of the Hiss case and tells of his tormented life.
Read a review of the book by Richard Nixon’s former lawyer, Charles Alan Wright.
Fred J. Cook
The Unfinished Story of Alger Hiss, Morrow, New York: 1958.
In 1957, Cook, a reporter for the New York World-Telegram and Sun, specializing in crime and politics, was asked by The Nation to look into the case. Cook, who was predisposed toward the prosecution’s side, later found himself on the side of the defense. This book expands on his original report for The Nation. Read an interview with Cook.
This, the first book on the case, is the celebrated English reporter’s firsthand account of the trials, which he covered for the Manchester Guardian. It is, Cooke writes, “a record of the trials of Alger Hiss, from the first accusation to his conviction, to which I hope puzzled and fair-minded people will turn in order to make up their minds about the proper verdict.” The book is valuable for its descriptions of the principal characters and their conduct and testimony at the trials.
Ralph De Toledano & Victor Lasky
This is the story of the case from the perspective of two conservative, anti-communist writers who became friends with Whittaker Chambers. Their book was compiled with help from the FBI.
Whittaker Chambers: The Discrepancy in the Evidence of the Typewriter, Mazzard, London: 1993.
A British writer takes a fresh look at the evidence against Hiss.
Concentrating on the early months of the Hiss case, and making extensive use of the now-publicly available grand jury records, Hartshorn, an independent scholar, concludes that the stories told by Whittaker Chambers were “completely fraudulent.” For more about Hartshorn’s book and a chapter from it, see this notice.
Many reviewers contrasted this book, which Hiss wrote after returning home from prison, with the highly charged feelings in Whittaker Chambers’ “Witness.” Hiss, they said, had written only a dispassionate lawyer’s brief. As a brief, however, Hiss offers a solid, thoughtful argument on his own behalf, with a thorough analysis of Chamber’s testimony, the documentary evidence and the defense’s arguments on appeal.
Recollections of a Life, Seaver Books, New York: 1988.
Hiss’s autobiography fills in the details of his life and career not found in “In the Court of Public Opinion.” Of special interest is Hiss’s account of the New Deal, his work at the Yalta Conference, and the early days of the United Nations.
Tony Hiss’s affectionate look at his dad. This is a short biography, written with a light touch.
The View From Alger’s Window: A Son’s Memoir, Knopf, New York: 1998. (Paperback edition, with a new afterword, Vintage Books, New York: 2000)
Using his father’s never-before-published prison letters, Hiss has written a moving elegy to his father’s memory, portraying his father as a person not a headline.
This book examines responses to the Hiss case. Susan Jacoby, best-selling author of The Age of Unreason, and someone who herself is convinced of Alger Hiss’s guilt, sees the case as a mirror of its time, concluding that liberals and conservatives alike “have put Chambers and Hiss to their own ideological uses.”
The Earl Jowitt
In one of the first detailed analyses and reviews of the case, a former Lord Chancellor and Attorney General of Great Britain looks at it from the time the charges appeared in the newspapers until the guilty verdict in 1950 in the second trial. Jowitt raises serious questions about the verdict, and notes that, based on the evidence presented, Hiss would never have been convicted in British courts.
Morton Levitt and Michael Levitt
An analysis of the case by a father-and-son team, in which the authors argue that both Hiss and Chambers were liars.
The autobiography of a woman who testified for the prosecution at the Hiss trials that Hiss was a member of the Communist Party.
William Howard Moore
This short book provides a character analysis of both Hiss and Chambers, as well as bringing a common-sense approach to Hiss case evidence.
Richard M. Nixon
In this, Nixon’s first autobiography, the first of his six crises is the Hiss case. Nixon points to the case as his first major success, sending him on the road to the presidency. The book unintentionally raised doubts about the authenticity of the typewriter that was an important exhibit in the Hiss trials.
Victor Rabinowitz represented Hiss in his coram nobis suit filed in 1978. He devotes a chapter of his memoir to the Hiss case and the new evidence of Hiss’s innocence found in the release of government documents under the Freedom of Information Act in the 1970s.
William A. Reuben
This book, with its tongue-in-cheek title, focuses on Richard Nixon’s role in the case as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Included also are a chronology and excerpts from Hiss’s motion for a new trial, which contains evidence gathered only after the guilty verdict in his case.
This is a line-by-line refutation of Federal Judge Richard Owen’s decision, denying Hiss’s coram nobis petition. Reuben scrutinizes Owen’s decision, challenging what he sees as the judge’s misrepresentation of the facts. Reuben builds a powerful argument that the guilty decision in the Hiss case should have been overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct.
Martin Roberts, an archivist, began researching contested verdicts in law school. His book focuses much of its attention on the Hiss case and the conclusions drawn by historian Allen Weinstein; Roberts finds Weinstein’s scholarship “biased in its treatment of evidence.” For more about Roberts’ book, see our notice, or read an excerpt.
The Alger Hiss Espionage Case, Wadsworth Publishing, Boston: 2004.
Part of a series for students with a focus on “salient events in American history,” this book gathers evidence from the Hiss case in an attempt to demonstrate that it “was arguably the most dramatic verification that Soviet espionage indeed had penetrated the U.S. government.”
Seth, a British writer, was fascinated by the Hiss case. He uses his expertise in espionage matters to offer a theory of his own – that the KGB, looking to harm Truman, forged the typewriter and documents while using Chambers as a pawn for its interests.
Christina Shelton, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst whose reports of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda became part of the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq, here turns her attention to the Hiss case, and attributes a continued interest in Hiss’s innocence to the “ongoing intellectual perversity of American academia.”
John Chabot Smith
Part biography and part analysis of the case, this book examines the trial evidence and argues for Hiss’s innocence. Smith, who covered the trials as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, carefully re-examines the documents placed in evidence by the government.
Read more about the Pumpkin Papers.
An early account of the case written by the House Un-American Activities’ chief investigator.
Patrick Swan, ed.
This is a compendium of 23 essays on the Hiss case and its place in postwar America, all originally published between 1950 and 2001. Most of the essays, by William F. Buckley, Jr., Sam Tanenhaus, and others, assume Alger Hiss’s guilt. The publisher is a nonprofit organization that promotes conservative thought on college campuses.
This favorable account of Chambers’ life was a National Book Award finalist. Tanenhaus presents Chambers as one of the most important American intellectuals of the 20th century.
Edith Tiger, ed.
Volume one is a reproduction of Hiss’s coram nobis petition, filed in 1978, in which he asked the courts to overturn his guilty verdict due to prosecutorial misconduct. The new information was uncovered in government documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act. The book includes many of the government documents produced by Hiss’s FOIA suit.
The second volume is a companion volume to the original coram nobis petition, and includes Hiss’s brief in support of his original motion, additional arguments and more of the released government documents.
This influential book by a history professor makes use of Hiss’s defense files and concludes Hiss was guilty as charged. For some, the book is the definitive answer to the Hiss case. Weinstein’s scholarship has been challenged by a number of scholars and journalists, most notably by Victor Navasky in The Nation.
G. Edward White
This biography purports to explain Hiss’s alleged lifelong patterns of denial and duplicity.
Read a response to the book.
Esme Joan Worth
Whittaker Chambers: The Secret Confession, Mazzard, London: 1993.
A psycho-biography by a former British intelligence agent, which analyzes Chambers’ literary efforts for clues to his actions and motivations in the Hiss case.
Meyer A. Zeligs, M.D.
Zeligs, a psychoanalyst, set out to write a psychological study of Hiss and Chambers and found himself doing his own investigation into the case. Interviewing many of the principals, he turns up previously unconsidered evidence. Zeligs draws parallels between Hiss and others accused by Chambers for reasons that, in Zeligs’ analysis, were political, personal and psychological.
Books on the Cold War or the McCarthy Era
(These books offer valuable context and some discussion on the Hiss case.)
- Abt, John J., “Advocate and Activist: Memoirs of an American Communist Lawyer;” University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago: 1993.
- Archer, Jules, “Treason in America: Disloyalty Versus Dissent”; Hawthorne Books, New York: 1971.
- Belfrage, Sally, “Un-American Activities: A Memoir of the Fifties”; Harper Collins, New York: 1994.
- Bovere, Margaret, “Treason in the Twentieth Century;” G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York: 1961
- Buckley, William F. & Editors of National Review, “The Committee and Its Critics: A Calm Review of the House.”
- “Committee on Un-American Activities;” G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York: 1962.
- Caute, David, “The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower;” Simon and Schuster, New York: 1978.
- Cook, Fred J., “The FBI Nobody Knows;” Macmillan, New York: 1964.
- Cook, Fred J., “The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy;” Random House, New York: 1971.
- Compton, James V., “Anti-Communism in American Life Since the Second World War;” Forum Press, St. Charles, MI.: 1973.
- Coulter, Ann, “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism;” Crown Forum, New York: 2003. Read an analysis of Coulter’s chapter on Alger Hiss.
- Fariello, Griffin, “Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition;” Norton, New York: 1995. This book includes an interview with Alger Hiss.
- Goodman, Walter, “The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities;” Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 1968.
- Goldman, Eric F., “The Crucial Decade: America 1945-1955;” Knopf, New York: 1956.
- Goulden, Joseph C., “The Best Years 1945-1950; Atheneum,” New York: 1976.
- Hellman, Lillian, “Scoundrel Time;” Little, Brown & Co., Boston: 1976.
- Hiss, Alger, “Yalta: Modern American Myth;” The Pocket Book Magazine No. 3, September 1955.
- Huss, Pierre J. & Carpozi, George Jr., “Red Spies in the U.N.;” Coward-McCann, Inc., New York: 1965.
- Kennan, George F., “Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin;” Mentor Books, New York: 1960.
- Klehr, Harvey, Haynes, John Earl and Firsov, Fridrikh Igorevich; “The Secret World of American Communism;” Yale University Press, New Haven: 1995. The authors mine newly released American and Russian documents to assert that postwar fears of communist subversion were well-grounded.This scholarship in this book has been questioned. Read a review by William A. Reuben.
La Feber, Walter, “America, Russia and the Cold War: 1945-1980,” 4th edition; John Weley & Sons, New York: 1967. Packer, Herbert, “Ex-Communist Witness;” Stanford University Press, Stanford: 1962.
- Shrecker, Ellen, “Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America;” Princeton University Press, Princeton: 1998.
- Schultz, Bud and Ruth, “It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America;” University of California Press, 1989. An oral history that includes recollections of a number of McCarthy-era victims, and also chronicles political repression throughout the 20th century.
- Theorharis, Athan, ed. “Beyond the Hiss Case, the FBI, and the Cold War;” Temple University Press, 1982.
- Weinstein, Allen and Vassiliev, Alexander, “The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America-The Stalin Era;” Random House: 1999. Weinstein’s Russian co-author had limited access to Soviet intelligence files. Based on that information, this book discusses covert Russian activities in the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s. Like Weinstein’s “Perjury,” its scholarship and methodologies have been challenged.
Books Mentioning Figures of Interest
(The following books mention Alger Hiss or concern issues and people related to the case.)
- Acheson, Dean, “Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department;” W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York: 1969.
- Alperovitz, Gar, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb;” Vintage Books, New York: 1995.
- Andrews, Chrisher & Gordievsky, Oleg, “KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev;” Harper Collins, New York: 1990.
- Berle, Adolf A., “Navigating the Rapids 1918-1971;” Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York: 1973.
- Brower, Brock, “Other Loyalties; A Politics of Personalities;” Atheneum, New York: 1968.
- “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Year Book, 1947,” Washington D.C.: 1947.
- Chambers, Whittaker, “Cold Friday;” Random House, New York: 1964.
- Chambers, Whittaker, “Odyessy of a Friend: Letters to William F. Buckley;” National Review, New York: 1969.
- Clubb, Edmund O., “The Witness and I;” Columbia University Press, New York: 1975.
- Cook, Fred J., “Maverick: Fifty Years of Investigative Reporting;” Putnam, New York: 1984.
- Costello, John and Tsarev, Oleg, “Deadly Illusions;” Crown Publishers, New York: 1993.
- Davis, Kenneth S., “FDR: The New Deal Years 1933-1937;” Random House, New York: 1979.
- Demaris, Ovid, “The Director: An Oral Biography of J. Edgar Hoover;” Harper’s Magazine Press, New York: 1975.
- Dean, John, “Blind Ambition: The White House Years;” Simon & Schuster, New York: 1976.
- Dennis, Peggy, “The Autobiography of An American Communist: A Personal View of A Political Life 1925-1975;” Lawrence Hill & Co. and Creature Arts Book Co., Westport/Berkeley: 1977.
- Douglas, William O., “Go East, Young Man;” Random House, New York: 1974.
- Draper, Theodore, “The Roots of American Communism;” Viking Press, New York: 1957.
- Furneaux, Rupert, “Courtroom U.S.A. 2;” A Penguin Book, Baltimore: 1963.
- Halsey, Margaret, “No Laughing Matter: The Autobiography of a WASP;” J. P. Lippencott Co., Philadelphia & New York: 1977.
- Halsey, Margaret, “The Pseudo-Ethic: A Speculation on American Politics and Morals;” Simon and Schuster, New York: 1963.
- Hebert, Edward F. and McMillan, John, “Last of the Titans: The Life and Times of Congressman: F. Edward Hebert of Louisiana;” Center for Louisiana Studies, The University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA.: 1976.
- Hershberg, James, James B. Conant: “Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age;” Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1993.
- “Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities House of Representatives 82nd Congress First Session, Testimony of Oliver Edmund Clubb; March 14, August 20 & 23, 1951,” United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1952.
- Jay, Paul, ed. “The Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Burke and Malcolm Cowley 1915-1981;” Viking, New York: 1988.
- Kempton, Murray, “Rebellions, Perversities and Main Events;” Times Books, New York: 1994.
- Kessler, George F., “Memoirs 1950-1963 Vol. II;” Little, Brown & Co., Boston: 1972.
- Krock, Arthur, “In The Nation: 1932-1966;” McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York: 1966.
- Kunstler, William M, “…And Justice For All;” Oceana Publications, Inc. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: 1963.
- Lash, Joseph P., “From the Diaries of Felix Frankfurter;” W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York: 1975.
- Levin, David, “Forms of Uncertainty: Essays in Historical Criticism;” University of Virginia, Charlottesville: 1992. Read Levin’s essay on Sam Tanenhaus’s Whittaker Chambers. Read Levin’s review of Perjury, by Allen Weinstein.
- Levine, Isaac Don, “Eyewitness to History: Memoirs and Reflections of A Foreign Correspondent for Half A Century;” Hawthorn Books Inc., New York: 1973.
- Lewis, Flora, “Red Pawn: The Story of Noel Field;” Doubleday, Garden City, NY: 1950.
- Lowenthal, Max, “The F.B.I.;” Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York: 1950.
- Louchheim, Katie, “The Making of The New Deal;” Harvard University Press, Cambridge: 1983.
- Lukas, J. Anthony, “Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years;” Viking, New York: 1973.
- McLellan, David S., “Dean Acheson: The State Department Years;” Dodd, Mean & Co., New York: 1976.
- Messick, Hank, “John Edgar Hoover;” David McKay Company Inc., New York: 1972.
- Miller, William and Leighton, Frances Spatz, “Fishbait: The Memoirs of the Congressional Doorkeeper;” Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 1977.
- Summers, Anthony, “Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover;” G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York: 1993.
- Summers, Anthony, and Swan, Robbyn, “The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon;” Viking, New York: 2000. This highly critical biography of Richard Nixon devotes a chapter to re-telling the story of the Hiss case and Nixon’s role in it. Reviewing the book for the Chicago Tribune (September 10, 2000), John W. Dean, who served as Counsel to the President during the Nixon administration, said: “I didn’t know that Nixon stalked Alger Hiss based on information secretly given him by the CIA and FBI, making his pursuit of Hiss anything but bold and daring. And this is the first book to investigate (and confirm the possible truth of) the remark that White House aide Chuck Colson made to me one time after talking with the president, about someone’s building a typewriter (which would have been fabricating evidence) in the Hiss case. The authors have reopened the debate on whether Hiss was framed.”
Young Adult Non-fiction
This book allows students to re-enact the trial, evaluate the evidence and come to their own decisions about an appropriate verdict.
Alger Hiss in Fiction
This dark satire of post-World War II America has as its main characters Uncle Sam, Richard Nixon, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Alger Hiss.
Philip K. Dick
In this classic science-fiction novel set in the early 21st Century, Earth settlers struggling to colonize Mars under the authority of the United Nations have erected a statue to “Alger Hiss, the first UN martyr.”
The long-forgotten Alger Hiss case provides the key to a 50-year-old conspiracy of blackmail, espionage and assassination on both sides of the crumbling Iron Curtain. Joe Pope, a congressional investigator back in ’48, is trying to enjoy his retirement in Key West when his ex-boss convinces him that there’s a piece of incriminating microfilm in existence that could “rewrite the history of the 20th century.”