Facing down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator

Facing down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator

4.5 6
by Clinton Van Zandt
     
 

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With more than twenty-five years of service in the FBI, Clint Van Zandt, one of the seminal figures in the formation of the FBI's Hostage Negotiation Program, has been party to such unsettling and high-profile conflicts as the Waco siege, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Unabomber case. His expertise-both as a crisis negotiator and as an FBI insider-has, since his…  See more details below

Overview

With more than twenty-five years of service in the FBI, Clint Van Zandt, one of the seminal figures in the formation of the FBI's Hostage Negotiation Program, has been party to such unsettling and high-profile conflicts as the Waco siege, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Unabomber case. His expertise-both as a crisis negotiator and as an FBI insider-has, since his retirement from the FBI, made him a fixture in the media; since his retirement from the FBI, he has been called upon more than three thousand times to provide insight and analysis when high-profile hostage situations arise. In Facing Down Evil Van Zandt recounts his most memorable cases-some televised in every living room across the country, and many others that took place beneath the radar of all but those individuals involved whose lives were permanently altered.

From blue-collar beginnings in the Midwest, Clinton Van Zandt fulfilled his childhood dream when he took an entry-level job in the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a clerk in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, eventually playing a leading roll in the FBI's groundbreaking work in hostage negotiation. In the years that followed, Agent Van Zandt rose through the ranks, helping to form the FBI's Hostage rose through the ranks, helping to form the FBI's Hostage Negotiation and Behavioral Science Program, where he would encounter madmen like Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, and Ted Kaczynski.

Van Zandt draws the reader into his private world of hostage negotiations, taking us inside the criminal mind, the impossibly high-stress situations, the ticking of the clock before SWAT is brought in, the art of calling a hostage-taker's bluff, and the despair over a botched operation or a nonnegotiable situation. It is both a gripping page-turner and a thoughtful examination of our nation's most powerful law enforcement agency through the eyes of someone on the front line of many of the FBI's most famous and infamous cases.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Van Zandt, an early FBI specialist in hostage negotiation, shuns the fireworks his fictional Hollywood counterparts can't seem to avoid, yet veteran ghostwriter Paisner (Citizen Koch) has successfully converted his reminiscences into a surprisingly entertaining series of anecdotes. Despite the absence of gunplay, these nuts-and-bolts descriptions of bank robberies, dramatic prison riots, grotesque scenarios in which the offender yearns to die and exotic hostage dramas in foreign lands make for gripping reading. A standout is 40 pages on the 1985 siege of the Covenant, an armed survivalist cult living on a heavily defended rural Arkansas farm. Few Americans remember the outcome: a hundred men, women and children peacefully surrendered. Van Zandt also relates his autobiography, beginning as a poor youth with divorced parents whose dream was to become a G-man, which required overcoming obstacles such as failing courses in college. He describes himself as a deeply religious born-again Christian who, unlike colleagues, never subordinated family to career but who loves the FBI and America and holds a low opinion of criminals, America's enemies and liberals. This turns out to be charming and does not diminish the value of his stories, which could appeal to readers not normally drawn to such macho adventures. (Sept. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Triumphs and tragedies in the career of a former FBI agent who became one of the Bureau's first hostage-negotiation specialists. The author, who retired in 1995 after 25 years' service, ruminates on personal wins and losses as well as the evolution of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's policies and tactics as it moved into the era of terrorist threats under two different chiefs, J. Edgar Hoover and Louis Freeh. The initial chapters, covering Van Zandt's struggles as a college dropout trying to fulfill his lifelong ambition of becoming a federal agent, are less than riveting. And it may come as a disappointment to the reader that he decides to "leave to history" the disastrous 1993 confrontation with the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas, without expanding on his personal involvement in it. He does, however, include part of the transcript of his many conversations with cult leader David Koresh and appears at one point to suggest that, had his team been allowed more time, the burning of the compound, which resulted in the deaths of women and children as well as Koresh, might have been avoided. He also suggests, quite brusquely, that because of his own Christian beliefs, the FBI was concerned that he might develop empathy with the Davidians. In summation, though, he backs away from direct claims. He does cover his participation, as a security consultant, in tracking down Theodore Kaczynski by comparing personal letters supplied by an attorney for Kaczynki's brother with a "manifesto" sent to newspapers by the so-called Unabomber. Another Van Zandt coup: suggesting to his former FBI associates that it was "a white male probably hung up on Waco" and not international terrorists (the FBI'sinitial target) behind the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh was later executed for it. A few exotic adventures, some tense moments, lots of redundant reflections.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399153082
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
09/07/2006
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.09(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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