Jim Hougan

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Jim Hougan
BornJames Richard Edwards
(1942-10-14) October 14, 1942 (age 81)
New York City, U.S.
Pen nameJohn Case (with Carolyn Hougan)
OccupationAuthor, journalist, film producer
EducationWilliam Horlick High School
University of Wisconsin–Madison (BS)
Genrefiction, non-fiction
Notable worksSpooks (1978)
Secret Agenda (1984)
SpouseCarolyn (1966–2007; her death)

James Richard Hougan (born George James Edwards on October 14, 1942)[1] is an American author, investigative reporter and documentary film producer.

A best-selling novelist in the United States and Europe, he is also known for Secret Agenda, a book on the Watergate scandal.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Hougan was born in Brooklyn, New York,[1] and graduated from William Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1960. In 1966, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Hougan wed Carolyn Johnson and began work as a newspaper reporter and photographer for the Prince George's County Sentinel in the Washington metropolitan area.[3] Afterward he joined the Capitol Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1971, while working there and as a stringer for The New York Times, he was awarded a study grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and was a Rockefeller Foundation fellow.[4] Reporting from Mexico City, Amsterdam, Ibiza, Athens, and London, his articles for the two foundations about "contemporary Western youth movements" were published in national newspapers and magazines.[5][failed verification] During this time, while covering countercultural movements in the West, he reported as well on the massacre of student dissidents in Tlatelolco, Mexico City and on the violent repression of their Greek counterparts by the Greek military junta in Athens.[6] Both assignments were considered dangerous.

Hougan's first book, Decadence, was published soon after his return from Europe. His second book, Spooks, reported on the "metastasis" of the American intelligence community and the emerging "cryptocracy." In its review, the Los Angeles Times declared Spooks "one of the best non-fiction books of the year, a monument of fourth-level research and fact-searching."[citation needed] Howard Hughes, Robert Maheu, Robert Vesco, Aristotle Onassis, and Yoshio Kodama were among the book's more infamous subjects, but its most important contribution to the investigative canon may have been its reportage about lesser known intelligence agents such as Bernard Spindel, Lou Russell, Mitch WerBell, John Frank, Joseph Shimon and others.[third-party source needed]

Hougan testified at the trial of Mark Knops, editor of the Madison Kaleidoscope, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin.[7]

As Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine (1979–84), Hougan wrote extensively about the U.S. intelligence community, and the CIA in particular.[citation needed] His investigation of the Watergate break-in uncovered links between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate office building and a call-girl ring at a nearby apartment complex.[citation needed] This liaison arrangement, coupled with evidence implicating the CIA in the operation, led to the publication of Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA by Random House in 1984. A Book of the Month Club selection, Secret Agenda was chosen by The New York Times as "one of the year's most noteworthy books."[citation needed] Hougan made appearances on such programs as NPR's All Things Considered, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and programs hosted by Larry King, Tom Snyder, and Regis Philbin.[citation needed]

External videos
video icon Interview with Hougan about Secret Agenda. The Today Show (NBC), with Bryant Gumbel. Season 34, Episode 51. (November 12, 1984)

In the mid-1980s, Hougan and author Sally Denton formed Hougan & Denton, a Washington-based company that did investigative research for law firms and labor unions. Clients included the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the United Mine Workers of America, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).[citation needed] During this period, Hougan joined with Norman Mailer and Edward Jay Epstein in forming what Hougan characterized as "an invisible salon," but which The New York Times called "a small coterie of intelligence buffs, conspiracy theorists and meta-political speculators, who, with all proper self-mockery, call themselves 'the Dynamite Club.'" The group met irregularly at the Manhattan apartment of Edward Jay Epstein and at the Washington manse of Bernard "Bud" Fensterwald (founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington, D.C.). Attendees included Dick Russell (author of The Man Who Knew Too Much), Don DeLillo (Libra and Underworld), Kevin Coogan (Dreamer of the Day), G. Gordon Liddy (Will) and others. At the time, Hougan was helping Norman Mailer in his research for what became the latter's CIA novel, Harlot's Ghost. While Mailer referred to these informal gatherings – drinks and dinner – as "meetings," the affairs had more in common with those of a salon than of an actual "club."[8]

In early 1991, Hougan was retained as a private investigator by AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Department (IUD) and by the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). At stake were the jobs of more than 1,700 workers at the Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation (RAC) in Ravenswood, West Virginia – a demographic that constituted the majority of the town's workforce. Hougan discovered that the plant from which the workers had been locked-out was secretly controlled by Marc Rich, a fugitive billionaire and commodities broker then resident in Zug, Switzerland. For the next two years, Hougan led the investigative component of an international campaign marked by demonstrations in Switzerland and England, and by congressional hearings in Washington and parliamentary speeches in Bern. In the summer of 1992, Rich finally capitulated and the Steelworkers returned to their jobs. The Ravenswood campaign has since been called "one of the most innovative and sophisticated contract campaigns ever waged by an American union. What happened in this small West Virginia town serves as a beacon of hope for American workers..."[9]

Hougan participated in G. Gordon Liddy's radio show on June 18, 1992, at the Watergate Hotel on the 20th anniversary of the Watergate crime, with Len Colodny along with John Barrett, Paul Leeper, and Carl Shoffler, the three arresting police officers. The event was broadcast nationwide by C-SPAN.[10]

In 1993, Hougan became one of the first, if not the first, American journalist to return to Beirut after years of internecine warfare, kidnappings and bombings.[citation needed] On assignment for the television documentary program, 60 Minutes, Hougan and Lowell Bergman paved the way for Mike Wallace to interview three of Hezbollah's most powerful figures: its spiritual leader, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah; its former Secretary-General, Sheik Subhi al-Tufayli; and Hussein Mussawi, an Iranian agent and head of Islamic Amal. Both Musawi and Tufayli have been implicated in Lebanon's torturous Hostage Crisis. The segment, titled "Three Days in Beirut," aired on January 16, 1994.[11] Hougan continued to work for 60 Minutes over the next two years, after which he returned to writing books.

These were thrillers, all but one written with his wife, the novelist Carolyn Hougan, using the pseudonym, "John Case."[12] The first of these of was The Genesis Code (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), a New York Times best-seller. The First Horseman (New York: Ballantine Books, 1998) followed a year later. Kingdom Come (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000) was published under his own name, and was subsequently reprinted as The Magdalen Cipher after becoming a bestseller in Spain.[13] To date, his subsequent novels, all written under the John Case pseudonym, include The Syndrome (2002); The Eighth Day (2002); The Murder Artist (2004); and Ghost Dancer (2007). All were published in the U.S. by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., as well as by publishers in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Writing with his wife as "John Case," Hougan has twice been short-listed for the Hammett Prize, honoring literary excellence in crime writing.[14][third-party source needed]

Hougan’s wife Carolyn died from stomach cancer in 2007.[15]

In 2014, his former high school publicly recognized him and five others as "graduates of distinction."[16] He lives in Afton, Virginia.[12]

Hougan has been an advisory board member of the Colodny Collection at Texas A&M University since at least 2019.[17][third-party source needed]

Rebecca Moore endorsed Hougan's body of work as being the "most credible example of leftist conspiracy literature."[18] She expanded on this in another article, where she writes: "I described Mr. Hougan's article in Lobster as falling within the genre of conspiracy literature. I stand by that statement, and I believe other readers of the article would agree. [...] I believe the editors published Mr. Hougan's piece because of its conspiracy themes. However, there is a difference between an article written by a professional conspiracist, and an article with a conspiracy theme written by an investigative reporter. I recognize the importance of making that distinction, and I am happy to do so."[19]


Hougan's films include The Vodka Dons, a documentary for the Discovery Channel about the Russian Mafia in the United States.

He served as executive producer for the 1982 documentary, Frank Terpil: Confessions of a Dangerous Man.[20] In 1998, he produced Jonestown: Mystery of a Massacre, an episode of the TV show Investigative Reports, hosted by Bill Kurtis.[21] The documentary aired on November 9, 1998 on A&E in the United States and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.[22]

Hougan provided a featured interview for a 2004 episode of the television documentary series, Betrayal!, regarding disgraced CIA officer Edwin Wilson.[23]



  • "Being Old and Hip & Broke in Ibiza." Alicia Patterson Foundation (1972). OCLC 990309261.
"Jim Hougan was an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner on leave from The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin."
On the emergence of counterculture in Mexico and the liberalization of women's roles on young men. Explores the impact of rock lyrics on a counterculture and speculates why a conservative government and an up-tight bourgeoisie try to suppress a counter-culture without first making an attempt to understand it.
Discusses various political and economic issues related to Greece: economic implications of terrorism, effects of massive industrialization, and relations with other countries.


A brief biographical profile about his wife, Carolyn, for the official John Case website.

Book reviews[edit]


Published as John Case[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Hougan, Jim 1942–." In: Contemporary Authors Online: A Bio-bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Nonfiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, and Other Fields. Volume 153. New Revision Series. Detroit: Gale (2006). pp. 153-155. ISBN 978-0787679071.
  2. ^ Lukas, J. Anthony (Nov. 11, 1984). "A New Explanation of Watergate." Review of Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA by Jim Hougan. New York Times, sec. 7, p. 7. Archived from the original.
  3. ^ "About the Author: Jim Hougan." Penguin | Random House. Archived from the original.
  4. ^ Staff writer (Dec. 13, 1971). "Jim Hougan Wins Top Journalism Study Grant." Capital Times, vol. 110, no. 1 (Madison, Wis.), pp. 1, 4.
  5. ^ President's Ten-Year Review & Annual Report 1971 (1972). Rockefeller Foundation.
  6. ^ Hougan, Jim (Apr. 1974). "Hard Times at the _th_ns News." Harper's Magazine, vol. 248, no. 1487, pp. 24, 28-30, 32.
  7. ^ Staff writer (Aug. 30, 1970). "Editor Kidnapped!" Madison Kaleidoscope, vol. 2, no. 18, p. 1. OCLC 1756402 . JSTOR community.28040342.
  8. ^ Spencer, Scott (Sep. 22, 1991). "The Old Man and the Novel." Review of Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer. New York Times, sec. 6, p. 28. Archived from the original.
  9. ^ Juravich, Tom, and Kate Bronfenbrenner (1999). Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  10. ^ "Watergate 20th Anniversary." (Jun. 17, 1992). C-SPAN. Hosted by the G. Gordon Liddy Show on WJFK-FM.
    "G. Gordon Liddy, who spent more than four years in prison for his involvement in the Watergate break-in, hosted a radio talk show live from the Watergate Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the crime. The show featured the three officers who made the arrest of the burglars."
  11. ^ "Three Days in Beirut." 60 Minutes, CBS. Season 26, Episode 47 (Jan. 16, 1994). 16 min. — via The Paley Center for Media: "Mike Wallace goes to Lebanon to interview retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cowan, who is heading up an investigation of the terrorist attacks against Americans during the 1980s. Cowan believes that Syria, and therefore Syrian President Hafas Assad, knew about and helped organize many of the attacks, including the bombing of the United States Embassy, the kidnapping of Terry Anderson, and the kidnapping and murder of William Buckley. Wallace then questions three leaders of the Hesballah, or 'Party of God,' the terrorist army that controls the southern portion of Beirut, who deny any involvement in the attacks." Summary.
  12. ^ a b "About the Author: John Case." Penguin | Random House. Archived from the original.
  13. ^ See: El Ultimo Merovingio (in Spanish). Barcelona: Editorial Planeta (2004). Translated by Sofía Coca and Roger Vázquez de Parga.
  14. ^ crimewritersna.org
  15. ^ Steve. "Carolyn Hougan (1943-2007)" (obituary). Mystery*File [blog] (May 2, 2007).
  16. ^ Staff writer (Jul. 29, 2014). "Six honored as Horlick Graduates of Distinction." Journal Times. "Jim Hougan, Class of 1960—While at Horlick High School, Hougan participated in baseball, cross-country, and was a member of the extra-curricular discussion group 'Stimulus' which focused on current events. It was this discussion group that began to prepare Hougan for a career in journalism that would take him abroad and back to the U.S. where he would work as Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine and as a producer for Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes. Hougan is also an accomplished author who along with his late wife Carolyn, wrote a series of best-selling thrillers under the name 'John Case.' Hougan is currently working on a new novel and last year traveled to Havana for the Frontline program on PBS to interview one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, a former CIA officer who has been on the run for more than 30 years."
  17. ^ "Advisory Board Members." The Colodny Collection at Texas A&M University. watergate.com.
  18. ^ Moore, Rebecca (Oct. 2000). "Is the Canon on Jonestown Closed?" Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 21. doi:10.1525/nr.2000.4.1.7. JSTOR 10.1525/nr.2000.4.1.7..
  19. ^ Moore, Rebecca (Mar. 11, 2013). "Response to Jim Hougan." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. San Diego State University. Archived from the original.
  20. ^ "Frank Terpil: Confessions of a Dangerous Man." Open Vault, from GBH.
  21. ^ "Jonestown: Mystery of a Massacre." IMDb.
  22. ^ "Jonestown: Mystery of a Massacre." Turner Classic Movies.
  23. ^ "Edwin Wilson: A Case of Reasonable Doubt" (Season 1, Episode 6). Betrayal! (Feb. 15, 2004). Written and directed by Tim Wolochatiuk. Produced by Associated Producers Ltd. in association with History Channel Canada.
  24. ^ "Target America." IMDb.

External links[edit]