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

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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 (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 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 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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12 of 13 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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7 of 8 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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From 1980-2000, Candace DeLong was a highly respected agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now retired from the agency, DeLong no longer has to abide by confidentiality rules. Teamed up with Elisa Pedrini, DeLong chronicles her career as a woman in the FBI.
Candace joined the agency at a time when few women were considered for the job. Sexism and harassment were the accepted norm back then. Like many women in male-dominated occupations, DeLong had to work twice as hard as male rookies to earn the respect of her superiors.
In "Special Agent," DeLong describes many of the cases on which she worked including the Tylenol tampering case of Chicago. She was also on the front-line as profiling became a valid tool in crime solving. In fact, one editorial quote on Amazon compares her to Thomas Harris' popular character, Clarice Starling.
DeLong doesn't discuss much of her private life, yet she is very candid about her work experiences, both praising and criticizing those within the Bureau. I figured there would be a lot of camaraderie, but I was also surprised to read how petty and competitive the agents can be as well.
My favorite portion of "Special Agent" discusses DeLong's involvement in the Unabomber case. She was part of the surveillance team in Montana and was responsible for detaining Ted Kaczynski while other agents searched his shack. The dialogue and interaction between the two described here is completely fascinating.
The details and pacing of the book held my attention the entire time. The subject matter may be tough for some. However, these are true stories within the FBI, and can't be sugarcoated.
"Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI" is an interesting book. Readers will be fascinated by the lenient glance into the files of the FBI. DeLong is an incredibly brave woman and her story is worth your time.
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