Book Review: The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greenlee

This book is a powerful account of a black man pushed over the edge by a dominating white society. The main character utilizes the skills that he learned while working for the government as a token CIA officer to organize a terrorist group consisting of Chicago’s gang youth.

The story takes place in the late 60’s and is full of the references of the turbulent times. Despite the difference in eras, I have many qualities that are similar to the character Dan Freeman in The Spook Who Sat By The Door, but blind militancy is not one of them. My experience in the military may have gone drastically awry had I not been given this book to read at an early age -by yet another black military official- well before I ever took the oath and received a letter from the president.

In this fictional masterpiece the character Dan Freeman struggles with the idea of black people being subservient in society he and largely blames the stereotypical depictions offered by mass media. Freeman lashes out at his social positioning and goes undercover into a DuBois-like “double consciousness” in order to lure whites into a false sense of security before his violent rampage.

As if this isn’t enough, Freeman uses his influence as a director of a social welfare program to incite gang members that look up to him as a role model. (I also recommend this book for anyone that wants to know how the mind of a killer like John Allen Mohammad must work.) The other reason that I can recommend this book whole-heartedly is because the United States government obviously doesn’t want you to read it.  When Greenlee, himself, did an adaptation of the book for film it was met with immediate success, and almost immediate censorship by the government.

The F.B.I. created a file on Greenlee, a former State Department agent, and banned the movie from theatres due to its graphic depiction of the start of a race war. This book could easily be misused as a blueprint to mischief like many of the timeworn, white-people crazy books. (A blacker version of The Turner Diaries?)  Two thumbs up, so long as you’re responsible enough, as I was, to understand that as much as you might want it to go down like that, it’s still wrong to kill random people in some weird, private rebellion.

Sam Greenlee reminds me of how nice it is to dream though…    His writing is easy enough for a child to understand: to the point, and short.  The Spook Who Sat By The Door remains the only work of Greenlee that I have read to date.  It is a great find (if you can get it in a regular bookstore without ordering first), I hope that you enjoy this under-appreciated story.


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