When I read Russ Baker’s book FAMILY OF SECRETS and Roger Stone and Saint John Hunt’s book JEB! AND THE BUSH CRIME FAMILY immediately following it (before I decided to tackle this review), I remembered how as a kid growing up with 1950s movies I naively believed that the good guys (at least one of them) defeated evil and the bad guys, even organized crime, were defeated. Sometimes the good guy died also, but it was always a noble sacrifice for the honest government and the innocent, honest people. Little did I realize then that, in real life, the reverse was true.

On a weekly comedy show, a shadowy figure in combat fatigues was shown knifing another shadowy figure in a dark hallway. The spoken and written caption said: “The CIA. You don’t know. You don’t want to know.” Truth in fiction, even comedy fiction. Readers who might really be masochistic enough to WANT to know may have some questions answered in Baker’s book.

FAMILY OF SECRETS is an infuriating read, not because of Baker’s writing, which is researched like a scholarly treatise and carefully detailed, but because of the subject matter that is tirelessly and (apparently) objectively revealed. This must have have a grueling labor of love (or hate, if you are a fan of the Bush dynasty). The number of characters rival that of Leo Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE while the digressions rival those of a William Faulkner novel.

The biographies of such persons as John Dean, who turned against President Nixon during the Watergate testimonies, are usually quite extensive, often taking us away from the focus on the Bushes and their numerous connections, cronies, and sycophants.

Baker interviewed countless persons across the country, dug through all sorts of files and records of business and campaign dealings, neighbors, ex-girlfriends (evidently W. had to have several indiscretions covered up — surprise, surprise), and the whole nine yards. He uncovered questionable operations and shady activities that were “beyond accountability” because of a certain belief that wealth has its privileges and that rules that apply to the rest of us don’t apply to the elite.

Anyone who complained or blew the whistle were dealt with in various degrees of severity. Even journalists doing their jobs as reporters (and not all newspapers revealed all the truth because of intimidation) by asking questions (e.g., asking W. about his real experience with the National Guard) were heatedly asked who they thought they were or were branded as stupid.

The subtitle for this work is “What their influence means for America.” Wow. Appropriate. Read this detailed work if you dare, but don’t expect to feel comfortable when you get to the end.