The Barnes & Noble Review
A former journalist from Franconia, New Hampshire, Christopher Whitcomb was hardly a typical FBI recruit. Yet over the course of his career, he climbed into the bureau's most lofty ranks: the Hostage Rescue Team (HRC). In his riveting first book, Cold Zero, the 15-year FBI veteran takes readers deep inside the nation's elite force of G-men.
In Cold Zero, Whitcomb renders this transformation in powerful, razor-sharp prose. Following a rigorous personal exam, he reports to the FBI training facilities in Quantico, Virginia, where he passes the physical and mental tests with flying colors. He's then promptly shipped off to Kansas City, and shortly thereafter, Springfield, Missouri. He struts into the Ozarks and encounters oddballs of all stripes, from a nuclear physicist stalked by angry Mormons to a construction foreman with the blueprints to Saddam Hussein's secret bunker. Not all the work is so funny; he cuts his teeth on tough cases, attends his share of funerals, and deals with battered wives.
Intent on pushing himself, Whitcomb rises to the challenge in 1991 when
presented the opportunity to work for the HRC. He drops 25 pounds and
becomes a sniper. Slowly, ineluctably, he draws the reader into his mind-set as he describes the FBI's standoffs with Randy Weaver and David Koresh, shedding a cold light on these events. In his mind, such men are hardened criminals, beyond earthly salvation. Reading this book, it's sometimes difficult to argue with this assessment. And thanks to Whitcomb's bold storytelling skills, we feel like we are up in the trees with him as he makes this judgment, rifle poised. (John Freeman)
John Freeman lives in New York City.
I could not stop reading his account of the intense, murky world he was once a part of. I love this book. author of The Perfect Storm
…a gritty thriller told with an angel's voice…Whitcomb is that rare combination of tough guy and poet…impossible to put down. author of In Harm's Way
An absolutely terrific read; storytelling at its best...Whitcomb is that rare treasure..[he] can deliver every mesmerizing detail with the skill...of a seasoned novelist.
This close-up look at the FBI's most elite unit by a 15-year veteran including firsthand accounts of actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge is alternately funny, exciting and disturbing. With his liberal arts background and experience as a D.C. speechwriter, Whitcomb was an unusual candidate for special agent. Currently director of information management for the Bureau's Critical Incident Response Group, he recounts his 1980s epiphany, following a State of the Union address, that he wanted to help preserve American democracy; he chose the FBI as his medium. He details the tricky, competitive process of becoming an agent, and humorously recalls how, as a cocky, ambitious FNG ("fucking new guy"), he clashed with his conservative superiors, yet soon valued their expertise as he chased an assortment of fugitives, bank robbers and kidnappers from a rural Missouri field office. He details these cases and his own growing expertise, then depicts with gallows humor the "physical and emotional hell" of applying to join the Hostage Rescue Team's (HRT). He succeeded and became a sniper, and offers excellent insight into the science and mindset of this rarefied killing art. In skillful prose, Whitcomb upholds the FBI's party line. Alongside sharp observations of the rituals and absurdities of federal law enforcement, he fiercely espouses an unreconstructed "thin blue line" philosophy whereby he perceives figures such as David Koresh and Randy Weaver simply as evil men and incompletely addresses civic disillusionment with the Bureau following Waco, Ruby Ridge and the FBI crime lab scandals. Still, Whitcomb ably portrays conflicts between the agency's factions Washington bureaucrats, profilers and negotiators,and the gung-ho HRT during these major crises. This valuable book makes a compelling read for armchair G-men everywhere. (Sept. 13) Forecast: There's always a market for insider FBI stories, and Whitcomb's involvement in the controversial Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents gives this one extra currency. A six-city author tour and print advertising in major newspapers should lead to brisk sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Special Agent Whitcomb here recounts his early years in the FBI, which included stops at Ruby Ridge and Waco as a sniper in the elite Hostage Rescue Team. Whitcomb is not only a true adventurer with interests in mountain climbing and sharpshooting but master of the "cold zero" shot the first, perfect shot. He is also a talented writer. Although he tends to go a little overboard with his patriotism and pride, this fast-paced memoir never lags. His realistic portrayal of the grinding training and work regimen coupled with the strains on family life make the "you-are-there" accounts of FBI operations in Waco, Bosnia, and, most recently, Vieques more gripping. A bit more background on these events would have helped with historical context. Still, it's hard to believe that Whitcomb has been an agent for only 15 years. Let's hope he stays with the FBI and continues writing. Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A cocky yet intelligent account of the making and actions of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team operator, by one of their own. After a painful amount of training, the Hostage Rescue Team, like firefighters and spies, sit through long periods of tedium, interrupted by furious, adrenaline-charged activity. Special Agent Whitcomb very neatly blends his tough guy patter-"They teach us to take out the brain stem"-with unexpected and pleasing wordplay: "Even at 2:07 a.m., the air feels rheumy against my skin." He explains how he got involved in the FBI in the first place; his extensive academy training; a whole lot of technical information on the tools of his trade; his first years on the job (including interviewing people who claimed to have been kidnapped by Martians); and his preparation to join the Hostage Rescue Team as a sniper. This is all impressive stuff, but the meat of the story comes in the blow-by-blow narratives of his more high-profile missions. These include the unpleasantness up on Ruby Ridge in Idaho ("The FBI, like most government bureaucracies, tries to swat flies with frying pans"), busts of drug gangs, and a journey into the killing grounds of Kosovo. Most dreadfully, he was also part of the disaster in Waco. Whitcomb is not your standard-issue killing machine; he has feelings and he is not afraid to speak them. The gassing and deaths of children at the Branch Davidian compound tear him to pieces, but as he notes, it took the FBI apart as well. He believes that a better organization can rise in its stead, that "we could heal," and so he keeps at the job, understanding that he can do good in the shadow of the past. Whitcomb is just the kind of guy who could restore a bitof faith in the FBI. Author tour