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Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI Hardcover – April 25, 2001

82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Readers may well find themselves looking nervously over their shoulders after finishing this memoir by Candice DeLong, who met a lot of Hannibal Lecter's soul mates during her 20 years as an FBI agent. An early practitioner of profiling, the analysis of crime data for what it reveals about the perpetrator, DeLong handled such ugly cases that she and her partner at one point were known as "the Gruesome Twosome." Her arrests included child molesters, rapists, and serial killers; among the book's useful features are her tips on what to do if you or your child is attacked. (Yell "Fire!" rather than "Help!" she advises; it attracts more attention.) Not that human nature's darker side was a surprise to DeLong, who came to the FBI from a job as head nurse in a maximum security psychiatric ward, where a violent paranoid schizophrenic crooned at her, "You better pray I never get out of these [restraints]. I could cut your head off. Or do you want me to tear your heart out?" The frank, conversational text ably captures the forceful personality of a female pioneer. The bureau had only been accepting women for eight years when DeLong joined in 1980, and her training at Quantico included brutal harassment by instructors determined to "wash out" any female applicant. Yet she had the toughness to survive and the good sense to know when to ignore her male colleagues' barbed jokes and when to kid them right back. Ultimately, she made friends and got ahead. As well as chronicling a stream of fascinating (and often deeply disturbing) high-profile cases such as the Unabomber, DeLong's narrative portrays a changing FBI, now valuing the special perspective contributed by female and African American agents it once scorned. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

DeLong offers a lively account of a single mother's 20 years in America's most conservative federal law enforcement agency. She was a registered nurse, seasoned by work in locked psychiatric wards, when a romance with a veteran agent led her to apply to the FBI. Her initiation in 1980 at the Quantico training academy was a grueling process of "flush[ing] out the weak," at a time when the old guard and even many younger agents remained openly hostile to the notion of female agents. DeLong shrewdly addresses such gender issues, depicting how the first women agents forced a sea change to a more integrated FBI. She reminisces acidly about institutional sexism ("Somehow fathers who placed themselves in physical jeopardy were deemed valiant... while mothers were considered irresponsible"), and her work tracking sexual predators has left her highly aware of "the evil that men do." DeLong initially performed research and telephone work, notably on the 1982 Tylenol murders, and won the loyalty and friendship of forward-thinking male peers. She at last moved on to undercover work on major cases including long-term surveillance of a terrorist bombing cell, the Chicago-based FALN (members' sentences were recently commuted by President Clinton) and the Unabomber and provides gripping accounts of these events. She also became an early proponent of "profiling" a technique scorned early on by many cops until its worth was proved and it was made famous by agent John Douglas (Mindhunter, etc.). Primarily a personal memoir, with DeLong contemplating her transformations as a woman and mother, this is a valuable look at the procedures and rituals of a notoriously cloistered organization. DeLong also brings to her reminiscences a lightness and humor rarely associated with the "Feebies." (May)Forecast: A 10-city author tour and national radio satellite touro should capitalize on a national fascination with crime and the FBI.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (April 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786867078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786867073
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is the most inspiring book I have read about a woman's career since I became familiar with Ms. Jane Goodall's books about her pioneering work in Africa with chimpanzees.
Many people will see Ms. Candice ("don't call me Candy") De Long as a real-life Clarice Starling (the FBI agent in Hannibal). I think she is more impressive than that. This fascinating book recounts her three lives as a psychiatric nurse who worked with violent patients and did home health care for poor people, an FBI special agent (specializing in profiling of repeated, sexually violent offenders) from 1980 through 2000, and as a divorced mother raising a son alone. Each side of her life is equally impressive, and she is the kind of person we all should admire. She has always done her duty, and we are all the better for that. While many pioneering women in "men's" professions often were given "token" roles, Ms. De Long wanted and went to where the action was. During her career, she rescued a child from a pedophile abductor, captured a terrorist who had murdered three men, and caught a Class A fugitive. She was also present and part of many famous investigations. Her memoir will give you a much better idea about crime and how the FBI and DEA combat it. The book also contains many lessons for how women and children can avoid becoming crime victims.
When J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, there were no women field agents. By 1980, around 4 percent of the agents were women. At her retirement in 2000, this had risen to 15 percent. Ms. De Long sacrificed a lot to become an agent. She had to leave her young son for 16 weeks for the initial training. She missed a lot of evenings and weekends with him to do surveillance. The training included a lot of harrassment (female and general).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cville Dad on August 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm even MORE paranoid than I was before now that I've finished Candice DeLong's book. Her tales of the cases she's been involved with are truly intriguing and often chilling. However, if you're looking for an inside scoop on the FBI, you certainly won't find it here. DeLong doesn't offer any suprising revelations about the hardships of being a woman in this blue-suit environment, nor does she give her reader any critical analysis of the inner workings of the FBI. But, it is a very entertaining (if unsettling) read. At the end of the book, DeLong offers some tips on lessening your chances of becoming a crime victim, but the overall message of the book seems to be a rather doomed one: crime happens, and it happens to people like you and me for no real reason at all.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Read this along with the memoir, Seductive Poison and found both quite eye opening. Although the two women authors, DeLong and Layton of Seducitve Poison were on opposite sides of the barrel, so to speak, both tell a riveting story of life on the inside of an all-consuming organization. DeLong on the side of the law and Layton running from it, then back into its cradle.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on July 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Candice Delong's experiences as head nurse in a maximum security psychiatric ward and, ultimately, as a member of the FBI have made this a top-notch book. For most of us, "The Silence of the Lambs" makes for an interesting read, but for Candice Delong the world is full of real-life "Hannibal Lecters", rapists, child molesters, serial killers and a wide assortment of other criminals. Needless to say, Candice has tread where many women would dare not go. Through the pages of this book, the reader will get a first hand experience of what it is actually like to walk in the shoes of one "who has been there and done that."
From her experiences at Quantico to real life in an imperfect world, the reader is left with an overwhelming respect for this woman's inspiration, dauntless courage and endless determination to make the world a better place. As a former street counsellor who worked on the streets of a Canadian city, I can attest to the fact that one is forever watching over their shoulder. There is no shortage of con artists, rapists, child molesters and serial killers in society, no matter where one lives. They live in affluential homes and in the recesses of the darker corners of the world. Some criminals are the typical "nice guy next door" - the Ted Bundy's of the world; others prefer to blend in among the homeless where they feel less conspicuous.
Candice Delong's account of life inside the FBI, particularly as a woman, is a real eye-opener. At the time she became a member of the FBI women had not been among the ranks for a very long time. This is a true-life story worth reading, deserving of a five star rating and highly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A good read. Everyone I've ever known in law enforcement always had great stories to tell, but Candice seems to have had a particularly good run. I was fortunate enough to have worked with her at the beginning of her career when she volunteered to work surveillances on the terrorist organization FALN. In a time when there were few females in the FBI, (or law enforcement), her femininity was an asset and her enthusiasm a delight. She not only volunteered her own time to work surveillances but recruited several other young agents, male and female, to participate in surveillances that required scores of people and were extremely sensitive. Her selflessness paid off when, by chance, she became the pivotal agent surveilling the main terrorist target in downtown pedestrian traffic and on public transportation. Her recounting of what she did to win at the "cat and mouse" game of surveillance is more than entertaining. Her stories have the insight of someone who's been there and should serve as encouragement to anyone who wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Rick Hahn
Special Agent - FBI - 32 yrs
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