Hood, William (Joseph) 1920-

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HOOD, William (Joseph) 1920-


Born April 19, 1920, in Waterville, ME; son of Walter J. (a musician) and Berthina (Hutchins) Hood; married Cordelia Dodson, 1951 (divorced, 1975); married Mary Carr Thomas (an editor), June, 1976. Education: Attended University of Southern Maine, 1939-40, and George Washington University, 1950.


Home—55 Spurwink Road, Scarborough, ME 04074. Office—158 East 82nd St., New York, NY 10028. Agent—Harold Ober Associates, Inc., 40 East 49th St., New York, NY 10017.


Portland Press Herald, Portland, ME, reporter, 1939-40; Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Washington, DC, senior official in operational component stationed in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, and England, 1945-75; writer, 1975—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1941-45, served in Armored Force and with Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as special agent; became master sergeant.


Special Forces Club (London, England), The Players (New York, NY), Waistcoat Club (Switzerland), The Beefsteak (Vienna).


Mole (nonfiction), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1982.

Spy Wednesday (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1986.

Cry Spy (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1988.

The Sunday Spy (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Richard Helms) A Look over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of reviews and articles to newspapers and magazines, including Midstream, Portland Sunday Telegram, and Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene.


William Hood describes a Russian spy's association with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the book Mole. Pyotr Popov, a major in the Soviet military intelligence wing (GRU), agreed to spy for the United States in 1952. Working from Vienna and Berlin under the guise of a loyal GRU officer, Popov provided the names of Russian operatives in Europe and the United States and details of his country's military command to CIA "handlers" for the next six years. Major Popov was exposed in 1958, arrested by the Soviets, and later shot for treason.

Hood, who worked within the CIA and its World War II predecessor the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for nearly thirty-five years, was operations chief of the agency station in Vienna when Popov decided to switch sides, and he helped establish the agent in the American intelligence network. In Mole, his agency-approved memoir that illustrates Popov's day-to-day relationship with the organization and concludes with speculation on how the agent might have been discovered, Hood uses pseudonyms to protect himself and other CIA officials involved in the case.

In a Washington Post Book World review, Robert G. Kaiser found Hood's version of the Popov story "a good yarn, ably recounted" and deemed Mole "a wonderful book for the beach and a must for the aficionado." Philip Taubman declared in the New York Times Book Review that Hood "is surprisingly skilled at telling the story. The book moves along crisply and builds to a dramatic conclusion with the kind of mounting tension one would expect to find in the best novels about espionage." Walter Laqueur of the Times Literary Supplement proclaimed Hood's Mole "an authentic story told in convincing detail."

Of the case and subsequent book, Hood once told CA: "There has been so much outright nonsense written about espionage that I thought it past time for someone to give a more realistic picture of what is involved in handling an important spy. The Popov story is an interesting one—he had been given the best the U.S. S.R. had to offer, but rejected the system and, on his own, decided to fight against it. Along with telling a true spy story, I hoped to give Popov a small footnote in history."

Hood tried his hand at the fictional depiction of spies in Spy Wednesday, his first novel. Jack Sullivan, writing in the New York Times Book Review, stated, "The characters in this exceptionally intelligent spy novel exist somewhere between the suave CIA operatives of William F. Buckley Jr. and the hard-boiled antiheroes of John Le Carre." A reviewer for the New Yorker praised the book, saying, "Mr. Hood has reinvented a not unfamiliar plot and molded it into a novel of unusual distinction." Sullivan echoed this assessment, declaring, " Spy Wednesday is a quiet, even austere novel, but with a powerful charge of electricity and danger. I suspect this is how the racket really is. Mr. Hood certainly makes us feel so."

A Look over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency is the memoir of Richard Helms, CIA director from 1966 to 1972. A collaborative effort between Helms and Hood written shortly before Helms' death in 2002 at the age of eighty-nine, the memoir recounts Helms' entry into the OSS, created in London during World War II, through his career with the CIA, the successor agency to the OSS.

In the Washington Monthly, Loch Johnson commented: "Richard Helms was the most debonair of the nation's 18 Directors of Central Intelligence (DCIs). Tall, smartly dressed, fluent in French and German, a specialist in European affairs, he was a natural for the spy business." In the Times Literary Supplement, James M. Murphy noted that, although Helms never served as a case officer, he was considered a "spy's spy, and his career from the beginning was that of Headquarters manager of those who were. As Director, he saw the Agency's role as a passive one; to stand ready to do the President's bidding, not to influence him in any direction." Zachary Karabell noted in Foreign Affairs that the intense secrecy surrounding the CIA not only "kept the agency insulated, but it also made it possible for successive presidents to evade accountability."

In the autobiography, Helms recounts his confrontations with Congress over intelligence abuses and the circumstances surrounding his false testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1970s related to whether the CIA had been directed to orchestrate the 1973 coup that ousted Chilean president Salvador Allende. Karabell observed that the Congress of the 1970s was "hypocritical and opportunistic," making the CIA "the fall guy for the mistakes of an entire era because it was easier and safer than untangling the true web of responsibility that included both a domineering White House and a passive legislature."

Joseph E. Persico remarked in the New York Times Book Review, "Whether one likes or loathes the furtive world in which Helms lived, whether one sees him as a patriot or a compliant careerist, this surprise autobiography provides an unsurpassed insider look into how American intelligence actually operates. It's a view offering more than enough ammunition for admirers and antagonists alike."



Foreign Affairs, July-August, 2003, Zachary Karabell, "Two Agents, Two Paths," pp. 182-187.

New Yorker, November 17, 1986, review of Spy Wednesday.

New York Times Book Review, May 23, 1982, Philip Taubman, review of Mole, p. 14; February 9, 1986, Jack Sullivan, review of Spy Wednesday, p. 19; May 4, 2003, Joseph E. Persico, review of A Look over My Shoulder, p. 9.

Times Literary Supplement, February 11, 1983, Walter Laqueur, review of Mole; August 22, 2003, James M. Murphy, "Shaman Spies," pp. 4-5.

Washington Monthly, June, 2003, Loch Johnson, review of A Look over My Shoulder, pp. 53-54.

Washington Post Book World, July 27, 1982, Robert G. Kaiser, review of Mole.*