Title: Secret History
Author: Martin Roberts
This book is a fascinating account of a number of criminal cases in the United States and in the United Kingdom, some of which resulted in wrong convictions. The book is part narrative, part analysis. The analysis, in particular the demolition of the reputation of Whittaker Chambers,ex-spy and idol of many Americans (he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom) will arouse debate and rethinking of the real lessons of the cases. The British cases will shock the complacency of many British people. Both parts are relevant to the current debate on how to deal with Islamic terrorists, whose fanaticism recalls that of the IRA and supporters of Communism. The book includes an analysis of Communism and the way in which its supporters manipulate fact for their own ends.
To Purchase Secret History
QUESTION 1 : What was the hardest part about writing your book?
In my particular circumstances, the fact that I was a British national, writing in a country where Flemish and French are the official languages, about a country (the USA) from which I was very distant.
It was also very difficult to fit into daily life. You need a fairly long time of complete concentration in between your daily tasks. This meant in my case that I was less able to contribute to domestic work.
I also had to learn a lot about working with a computer. At the start I had only a modest acquaintance with them. So I had to learn how to do formatting, paragraphs and so on.
QUESTION 2 : Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, can you share it?
Yes. Here it is: the proceedings are before HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee):
“That the paranoia of the Committee knew no boundaries is clear from their questioning of Mrs. Martha Pope, a former employee of the Hiss family. This was undertaken on the 24th August , the day before. It is conveniently quoted by Hiss in his book In the Court of Public Opinion, pages 61-7. Among other things, they think that Mrs. Pope may have been in contact with Hiss’s lawyer. They also suspect that Hiss is already plotting to conceal facts about his private life from the Committee.
They also ask when the last time she saw Hiss was. She tells them 1936, dating it from the house the Hisses lived in at that date. But then the thought arises in their minds – perhaps Hiss might have spoken to her over the telephone and told her what to say and do before HUAC. So they ask her if she has in the meantime spoken to Hiss over the phone. She gives the same date. They also want to know if she has discussed being called to testify with anyone since being called. No, she says, only with her present employer – who would need to be informed about the reason for her absence- and the HUAC researcher who came to the meeting with her. They think this old lady is part of the conspiracy against the United States.”
QUESTION 3: What do you hope readers will take away after reading the book?
I hope that they will see that sometimes even official statements can be used to conceal the truth. For example, the Show Trials in Stalin’s Russia have little to do with the truth, though they are based on confessions. They conceal what is really happening, which is that Stalin is killing off everyone who disagrees with him, and forcing them to confess to everything that has gone wrong (an enormous amount) in Soviet Russia. This means that they are to blame for everything that Stalin has messed up.
Similarly, at page 138 I quote from Professor Theoharis’s book J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, which shows that a Senator, no less, would write to Hoover requesting FBI reports on particular individuals and would receive a standard letter refusing the request and stating that such reports were confidential. Hoover’s letter would be delivered by hand by an FBI agent, who would also bring the file in question and would wait to answer any questions the senator had to ask.
These examples are extreme, but each share a common element: they create facts. The Soviet example is an enormous lie, and in the end it failed because it offended against reason. But in the end it was exposed, leaving us to speculate about how it was done. The FBI example is small, but it is one of a large number of small lies that their agents told: I give other examples in my book.
QUESTION 4: Who or what is the inspiration for the book?
Other writers about the cases in both countries, whose details I give in the list of books at the end of the texts. For example, William A. Reuben, R. Bruce Craig, Dr. Meyer Zeligs, Nathan I. White.
In a general sense, I was inspired by the fact that due process of law had not been observed, and that someone should get the facts straight. For example, I criticise the work of Professor Allen Weinstein, leading authority on the Hiss case, for being biased in his choice and use of evidence. Believe me, this was not my choice of an adversary, he was just an authority who was in my
QUESTION 5 : Have you had a mentor? If so, can you talk about them a little?
For learning about how to use a computer, several. One of them, Michael Van Gucht, was a student of computer engineering at a local university. I could hardly have asked for a better guide.
For learning how to write, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, Fowler’s Modern English Usage. For learning how to analyse and argue, Samuel Johnson. These are just some of those I have learned from.
QUESTION 6 : I have heard it said in order to be a good writer, you have to be a reader as well?Do you find this to be true? And if you are a reader, do you have a favorite genre and/or author?
I certainly agree that you have to be a reader if you are a writer. I think people read what is important to them at a given time. When I was studying law I read a number of decisions and judges’ speeches that helped me to understand legal reasoning and rules, particularly those from Lord Denning, hero of a generation of law students for the clarity of his arguments.
Nowadays, I read a lot of books by P.G. Wodehouse, a comic genius but also a very good writer whose prose has been widely praised. Also another British humorous writer not perhaps known outside his own country, Alan Coren, and the American author, James Thurber. These I read as good class writing, but I also read them to lift my spirits, which could do with some lifting at the moment.
Of course I have read some literary texts, such as Dickens or Shakespeare, in the course of a prolonged education, but I no longer do so.
Martin Roberts is a British subject living in Belgium. He began to study contested verdicts in criminal cases when he started to study for a law degree, and this book is the result. He trained as an archivist and worked in that field for 26 years. This has given him a lot of patience and a bit of scepticism about what records tell us. He has sought to make his book user-friendly by quoting online sources and allowing the reader to find his way through the facts and arguments to reach his own conclusions.