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"I hope we're as good friends when you finish your book as we are now," Ben Bradlee, the legendary former executive editor of The Washington Post,told Jeff Himmelman in March 2010. "But I don't give a [expletive deleted] what you write about me." So begins Ben,an intimate portrait of a fixture on the American scene for nearly half a century-close friend to John F. Kennedy, the center of D.C. social life, and a crusty, charismatic editor whose decisions at the helm of the Postduring Watergate changed the course of history. Granted unprecedented access to Bradlee and his colleagues, friends, and private files, Himmelman draws on never-before-seen internal Postmemos, correspondence, personal photographs, and private interviews to trace the full arc of Bradlee's forty-five year career-from his early days as a press attaché in postwar Paris through the Pentagon Papers, Richard Nixon's resignation, the Janet Cooke fabrication scandal, and beyond. Himmelman also unearths a series of surprises-about Watergate, and about Bradlee's private relationships with Postowner Katharine Graham and President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. "Don't feel you have to protect me," Bradlee told Himmelman whenever the reporting started to strike close to home. "Follow your nose." Those instructions, familiar to any Postreporter, have resulted in this thoughtfully constructed and beautifully written account of a magnetic man whose career has come to define the golden age of newspapers in America, when the press battled for its freedom-and won.