James Richard Hougan (born October 14, 1942) is an American author, investigative reporter and documentary film producer. A best-selling novelist in both the United States and Europe, his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is best known for Secret Agenda, perhaps the first investigative work to question the orthodox narrative of the Watergate scandal as propounded by the Washington Post.
Born James Richard Edwards in Brooklyn, N.Y., he graduated from William Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin (1960). In 1966, he earned a degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Soon afterwards, he wed Carolyn A. Johnson and began work as a newspaper reporter and photographer for the Prince George's Sentinel in suburban Maryland. After winning awards from the Maryland-Delaware Press Association, he joined the Capitol Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1971, while working at the Cap Times and as a stringer for the New York Times, he was named an Alicia Patterson and Rockefeller Foundation fellow. Reporting from Mexico City, Amsterdam, Ibiza, Athens, and London, his articles for the two foundations about “contemporary Western youth movements” were published in an array of national newspapers and magazines. During this time, while covering counter-cultural movements in the West, he reported as well on the massacre of student dissidents in Mexico City's Tlatelolco Square and on the violent repression of their Greek counterparts by the military junta in Athens. Both assignments were considered dangerous.
Hougan is also an award-winning investigative journalist and broadcaster. He lives in Afton, Virginia.
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.” 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.
Aa Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine (1979–84), Hougan wrote extensively about the U.S. intelligence community, and the CIA in particular. 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. 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. 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.” Throughout this period, Hougan made numerous radio and television 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.
In the mid-1980s, Hougan joined author Sally Denton in forming a Washington-based company – Hougan & Denton – which undertook investigative research for law firms and labor unions. Clients included the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the United Mineworkers of America, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). During this same time, 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 Mailer in his research for what became Mailer's CIA novel, Harlot's Ghost. And 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.”
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 1700 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…”
With the successful closure of the Ravenswood campaign, Hougan returned to investigative reporting, documentaries and books. In 1993, he became one of the first – if not the first – American journalist to return to Beirut after years of internecine warfare, kidnappings and bombings. On assignment for the television documentary program, 60 Minutes, Hougan and Lowell Bergman paved the way for Mike Wallace to interview three of Hezballah's most powerful figures: its spiritual leader, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah; its former Secretary-General and suspected head of Ansar Allah, Sheik Subhi al-Tufayli; and Hussein Mussawi, an Iranian agent and head of Islamic Amal. Both Musawi and Tufayli have been implicated in the Lebanon's torturous Hostage Crisis. The segment - “Three Days in Beirut” - aired in 1994. 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.” The first of these of was The Genesis Code, a New York Times best-seller. The First Horseman followed a year later. Kingdom Come was published under his own name in 2000, and was subsequently reprinted as The Magdalen Cipher after becoming a runaway bestseller in Spain. 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.[