I had been agonizing over buying his book (Commander of All Lincoln's Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck) and then suffering through bad doctrine and psychohistory in exchange for learning more about Halleck's California political operations and his prewar dealings with Hooker and Stanton. Friend Kevin Derby was good enough to share his impressions of the work on the McClellan Society discussion board and they are worth repeating here:
Your humble blogger is now sputtering furiously in a thick Viennese accent: "His Vater! His Vater! On ziss I am supposed to spend my Civil War buch stipend!?"
I just finished Commander of All Lincoln's Armies by John Marszalek, a good look at Halleck and better than the Ambrose and Anders books on the subject.
The problem is that Marszalek argues that Halleck's bad relations with his father ensured that he could never order Union generals around, from Mac to Burnside to Meade to Buell while acting like his tyranical father with Sherman, Hooker and Grant.
Even worse, Halleck apparently spent his entire life searching for substitute fathers and he should have found one with Lincoln but didn't. Sheesh. [...] I'm probably more of a fan of Halleck than most Civil War students (comes with being a college registrar, I appreciate the skill of pushing papers) but it is fair to say that Old Brains had little skills as a field commander or an executive (though he was a solid administrator). It's fair to say he was assigned the wrong role as opposed to blaming it on bad relations with his dad.