Max Allan Collins used Ness as the "police contact/best friend" character in his series of historical private eye novels featuring Chicago detective Nate Heller. Later he spun Ness off into his own series, set during his tenure as Cleveland's Public Safety Director. The first book, The Dark City (1987), depicted Ness's getting hired and undertaking a cleanup of the graft-ridden police force; the second, Butcher's Dozen (1988), his pursuit of the serial killer known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run . Bullet Proof (1989) pitted Ness against labor racketeers intent on taking over Cleveland's food service industry. Murder by the Numbers (1993) depicted Ness's investigation of the numbers racket in Cleveland. All of these novels, while fictionalized, were closely based on actual cases investigated by Ness and the Cleveland Police.
The FBI frequently investigated Martin Luther King, Jr. In the mid-1960s, King began publicly criticizing the Bureau for giving insufficient attention to the use of terrorism by white supremacists. Hoover responded by publicly calling King the most "notorious liar" in the United States.  In his 1991 memoir, Washington Post journalist Carl Rowan asserted that the FBI had sent at least one anonymous letter to King encouraging him to commit suicide.  Historian Taylor Branch documents an anonymous November 1964 " suicide package " sent by the Bureau that combined a letter to the civil rights leader telling him, "You are done. There is only one way out for you..." with audio recordings of King's sexual indiscretions.