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Freedom's Detective

The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror...

Charles Lane



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Hanover Square Press
09 April 2019
Biography: historical, political & military; History; History of the Americas; American Civil War; Politics & government; Civil rights & citizenship
This is a powerful, vitally important story, and Lane brings it to life with not only vast amounts of research but with a remarkable gift for storytelling that makes the pages fly by. --Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Hero of the Empire Freedom's Detective reveals the untold story of the Reconstruction-era United States Secret Service and their battle against the Ku Klux Klan, through the career of its controversial chief, Hiram C. Whitley In the years following the Civil War, a new battle began. Newly freed African American men had gained their voting rights and would soon have a chance to transform Southern politics. Former Confederates and other white supremacists mobilized to stop them. Thus, the KKK was born.

After the first political assassination carried out by the Klan, Washington power brokers looked for help in breaking the growing movement. They found it in Hiram C. Whitley. He became head of the Secret Service, which had previously focused on catching counterfeiters and was at the time the government's only intelligence organization. Whitley and his agents led the covert war against the nascent KKK and were the first to use undercover work in mass crime--what we now call terrorism--investigations.

Like many spymasters before and since, Whitley also had a dark side. His penchant for skulduggery and dirty tricks ultimately led to his involvement in a conspiracy that would bring an end to his career and transform the Secret Service.

Populated by intriguing historical characters--from President Grant to brave Southerners, both black and white, who stood up to the Klan--and told in a brisk narrative style, Freedom's Detective reveals the story of this complex hero and his central role in a long-lost chapter of American history.
By:   Charles Lane
Imprint:   Hanover Square Press
Edition:   Original ed.
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   454g
ISBN:   9781335006851
ISBN 10:   1335006850
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   09 April 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Charles Lane is a Washington Post editorial board member and op-ed columnist. A finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing, he was the Post's Supreme Court correspondent prior to joining the editorial board. As editor of The New Republic, he took action against the journalistic fraud of Stephen Glass, events recounted in the 2003 film Shattered Glass. He has also worked as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Latin America. He is the author of two previous books.

Reviews for Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror

Bolstered by deep research into government documents and press accounts, Freedom's Detective paints an illuminating portrait of Whitley, an intriguing representative of Reconstruction's feats and fiascos. --The Washington Post Lane's account of Whitley's infiltration of the Klan is endlessly gripping, and he recounts it with an impressive narrative tension. He also does an excellent job placing the operation in historical context, chronicling the racism and resentment that built up in the South following the end of the Civil War. ... Lane proves himself to be an excellent researcher and writer, and Freedom's Detective is a captivating account of a flawed but remarkable man. --NPR The definitive look at the federal government's efforts to counter the threat posed by the KKK during Ulysses S. Grant's presidency in this well-written and carefully researched account. ... Parallels between what Lane calls the first war on terror and the current one--both featured military commissions, selective suspensions of habeas corpus, isolated interrogation centers, and torture against terrorists --make clear why this lesser-known chapter in American law enforcement merits attention. American history buffs won't want to miss this one. --Publishers Weekly (starred review) Charles Lane provides a lively and well-researched account of Whitley's checkered career and the surprising early years of the Secret Service. ... Mr. Lane, a Washington Post opinion columnist, has a gift for storytelling. --Wall Street Journal Lane tells a compelling story of a man who, with all his faults, still fought to make a difference and, for the most part, succeeded. Whitley was indeed no saint, but changes made in law enforcement under his direction made vast improvements in the way justice is handled today. --The Oklahoman Lane's well-researched book portrays a complex lawman with questionable ethics, who long pursued shady businesses yet made his mark fighting the Klan as it gathered strength in many Southern states and threatened to grow ever larger. This is an important, highly readable, and timely study of a key historical period, the origins of the KKK, and one man's battle against its campaign of hatred and bloodshed. --Booklist This is a powerful, vitally important story, and Lane brings it to life with not only vast amounts of research but with a remarkable gift for storytelling that makes the pages fly by. --Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Hero of the Empire A detail-laden, arduously researched chronicle that delineates an important early era of the Secret Service. --Kirkus Reviews Charles Lane's Freedom's Detective is a riveting narrative history about early attempts to crackdown and even stamp out the Ku Klux Klan's reign of domestic terrorism. The amount of original research Lane conducted is prodigious. His prose style is irresistible. An overall magnificent read! --Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities, Professor of History at Rice University, and author of Rosa Parks Freedom's Detective reads like a movie, and I'd love to see it. As the KKK rose from the ashes of the Confederacy, the American government rose to the occasion in the form of the much-opposed Secret Service. Charles Lane's biography of former-slave-hunter-turned-undercover-agent Hiram Whitley is a much-needed cautionary tale in an age of rising tyranny - that we must hold our criminals and our cops accountable for their actions. --Jared A. Brock, author of The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story That Sparked the Civil War With a reporter's eye for telling detail, Lane has unearthed a hidden gem of a story. Gripping and insightful, Freedom's Detective reads like a first-rate historical novel. Hiram Whitley, the colorful protagonist, made his mark in the late 1800s, but his story has stunning relevance in 21st Century America. --Julie Cohen, producer of RBG Charles Lane has brilliantly reconstructed the hidden history of America's first Secret Service and its ingenious war on the Klan. At its heart is America's very own 007: the charming, roguish, and ultimately heroic figure of Hiram C. Whitley. Settle in with this page-turner, and let the story sweep you away. --Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present I thought I knew how the Klan was destroyed after the Civil War, but after reading Charles Lane's wonderful book, I realized I knew almost nothing. --Laurence Leamer, author of The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan One of the biggest and most hurtful myths of our political discourse is that white supremacy is a thing of the past and not part of who we are. Charles Lane's gripping and insightful narrative of the early battles against the Ku Klux Klan reminds us of how deeply embedded the battle for racial justice was with our national project, but how some of the tactics remain the same. The echoes between the cries of fake news and racial disaffection today and those of 150 years ago are tragic and chilling. It is essential reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of our current troubles. --James E. Johnson, United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, 1998-2000

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