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Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service [Kindle Edition]

Joseph Petro , Jeffrey Robinson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.99
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

Joseph Petro served for 23 years as a special agent in the United States Secret Service; eleven of them with presidents and vice presidents. For four of those years he stood by the side of Ronald Reagan.


Following his career as a Navy Lieutenant, during which he patrolled the rivers and canals along the Vietnamese-Cambodian border, he worked his way up through the Secret Service to become one of the key men in charge of protecting the President. That journey through the Secret Service provides an individual look inside the most discreet law enforcement agency in the world, and a uniquely intimate account of the Reagan presidency.


Engagingly, Joseph Petro tells "first hand" stories of: riding horses with the Reagans; eluding the press and sneaking the President and Mrs. Reagan out of the White House; rehearsing assassination attempts and working, then re-working every detail of the president's trips around the world; negotiating the president's protection with the KGB; diverting a 26 car presidential motorcade in downtown Tokyo; protecting Vice-President Dan Quayle at Rajiv Gandhi's funeral where he was surrounded by Yassir Arafat's heavily armed bodyguards; taking charge of the single largest protective effort in the history of the Secret Service-Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit to the United States; and being only one of three witnesses at the private meeting between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that ushered in the end of the Cold War.


Joseph Petro provides an original and fascinating perspective of the Secret Service, the inner workings of the White House and a little seen view of world leaders, as a man who stood next to history.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A readable and frequently engaging memoir of the author's 23 years in the Secret Service focuses on his time in the personal protective detail, guarding President Reagan and his family. In detailing his four years in that capacity, Petro burnishes the image of the Reagans as personally agreeable, even admirable, and easy to deal with in a professional context. A particularly moving part of the book deals with the Geneva Summit at which Reagan and Gorbachev substantially thawed the Cold War, and the author's perspective on some of Reagan's mediagenic faux pas shed further light on a much-discussed aspect of the Great Communicator. The Reagans were not the only VIPs that fell into Petro's sphere—the Quayles didn't like being protected and did like vigorous sports (such as whitewater rafting, during which Marilyn Quayle once fell out of the raft). The author provides hints of tactical and ethical principles of the protection detail, as well as the internal politics of the Secret Service. He finishes with one of his most demanding jobs, protecting Pope John Paul II through a 10-day, 114-stop tour of the United States. This is a thoroughly readable narrative of professionalism in action in a delicate sphere of activity; notably, while this is Petro's first book, it is his college roommate Robinson's 19th.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Former Secret Service agent Petro protected Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Dan and Marilyn Quayle, and Pope John Paul II. His memoir of 20-plus years standing post or watching crowds is replete with anecdotes arranged to show what the Secret Service does. Petro stresses the friction inherent between safety and public visibility, and illustrates that point by recounting the negotiations that occurred between those being protected and the men and women with the earplugs and impassive visages. Petro introduces this main topic with an account of his arrangement of a Reagan trip to a baseball game, and sustains it though various settings, whether an international summit conference or a restaurant. More personally, the author confides his recruitment to the Secret Service and his investigations, such as infiltrating John Kerry's antiwar group. True to the Secret Service's ethos of confidentiality, Petro shies from gossip but imparts just enough to imply his opinions of the people he guarded, which is the part that will be of most interest to his readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 656 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002U5HKZQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating May 3, 2005
Format:Hardcover
There are no bits of sensational gossip in this book, and this is one reason that it is so enjoyable. Petro is clearly a stand-up kind of guy and I can see why he became so trusted in the Secret Service. It is quite interesting to see the human side of the agency (politics, competition, back-stabbing, etc.). One otherwise might tend to imagine the agents as kind of stiff. I was also impressed by his explanation of the way that protection is afforded the president via three concentric rings of coverage. This is a fast and easy read; well written and edited.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear, Well-Written Portrait of the Secret Service January 30, 2005
Format:Hardcover
The Secret Service is one of the most well-known but mysterious organizations in the federal government. We see them almost everyday on television alongside the president as he works the ropes somewhere. In "Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service", retired Special Agent Joseph Petro paints a wonderful picture of the protective bubble surrounding the American presidency. With fascinating stories from his years guarding the Reagans, the Fords, the Quayles, the Rockefellers, and even the pope, we receive a glimpse of what the world's leaders are truly like. We learn that the pope was one of those people who when he was hungry would begin digging through a pantry and we discover that Nancy Reagan was truly not the monster she was portrayed to be. With humorous anecdotes and occassional commentary on the Secret Service today, Joseph Petro has written a masterpiece and is perhaps the best book ever written on the United States Secret Service. "Standing Next to History" is a book that you can't put down once you pick it up and is certainly a must-read. Five stars are easily given here.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dignified Look at a Solemn Charge. February 14, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Petro was on The O'Reilly Factor discussing his book, which whetted my appetite for this truly fascinating account of life inside "The Service."

From the opening pages, this work is a dignified account of a solemn duty, and the reader can sense that Mr. Petro took his charge with the utmost of seriousness. There is not one ounce of sanctimony in his tenor. He considered each assignment a sacred duty to protect, whether they were friend (Ronald Reagan) or foe (Arafat), whether he agreed with them politically (Dan Quayle, or The Pope), or not.

What I love about this book is that Joseph Petro does not spend close to 300 pages patting himself on the back, displaying faux modesty making statements such as "I don't consider myself a hero." He's honest without being mawkishly sentimental (such as what one can see daily on Oprah).

A subplot to this book harkens the reader back to a time when our leaders displayed a respect for the office they held, and carried themselves with a dignity that was commensurate with that office. In picture after picture you see this dignity reflected in the posture and demeanor of Joe Petro.

This book is not only a tribute to the many courageous men and women of The Secret Service, it is also a tribute to the fine American who shared his life as he stood next to history: Agent Joseph Petro.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like A Movie January 10, 2005
Format:Hardcover
It's not often that non-fiction reads like a movie, but this does and like any great movie, this has it all. There is the high drama of protecting a high value target like Pope John Paul II, and the down to earth humor that came along with being part of the private enourage of Ronald Reagan. But when it comes to a spine chilling scene, none can beat the moment where Petro, armed with an Uzi submachine is riding in the Vice President's motorcade and spots an arm come out of the crowd with a gun. In the flash of a millisecond, he aims his weapon. As he says about Secret Service agents, when they fire they do not miss. In the flash of that same millisecond, he realizes that the gun is red. The color of the pistol, combined with years of concentrated training stops Petro from firing. Thank God, as it turned out to be a water pistol in the hand of a child. If that person reads this, he will understand how close he came to getting killed. For the rest of us, "Standing Next to History" beats most movies any day.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing a world that few ever notice January 20, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Joseph Petro worked for the Secret Service for 23 years. During that time he was the agent in charge of President Reagan's protection and also was responsible for Pope John Paul II's security while in the US on tour in 1987. He also did stints with Vice President Quayle and Vice President Gerald Ford.

This is not a comprehensive review of the Secret Service's history, mission, or place in society. Petro delivers, with ghost writer Jeff Robinson, a highly readable yet never schmaltzy account of his many years as an active Secret Service agent protecting some of the highest-profile people in modern history and, moreover, occupying a "fly on the wall" position during such famous negotiations as Reagan and Gorbuchevs' in Geneva that eventually led to the Berlin Wall coming down. Even then-Secretary of State George Schultz was not present at some of these negotiations!

Petro dispels a few myths, including the old adage that Secret Service agents are supposed to take a bullet for the President, and really shows us how methodical and determined agents are at serving their protectees, such as when Petro alters the Popemobile to make it easier for the agent seated in front to craw into the bubblespace behind.

He also shows us a side of the people he has protected without seeming like a prying paparazzi or that he is passing judgment. For example, he was assigned to Nelson Rockefeller when he was VP to Gerald Ford. Petro tells an amusing anecdote of Rockefeller trying to dial the White House switchboard and telling them "It's the Vice President, please put me through to the President" but subsequently the phone is cut off. Petro informs poor Rockefeller that he has a direct line to the President, he does not need to use the public telephone network!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable Book
This gentleman wrote it like it is, but he was very matter of fact rather than abrasive. He did not short change any of his clients who deserved compliments either, and there were... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Joan Rodriguez
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very good read.
Published 1 month ago by Allan Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight to being next to powerful men and be invisible at...
I enjoyed this book because I like history. I like biography. I like the White House. And I'm interested in U.S. Presidents. This book covers all if that and more. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DrDave
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Entertaining and in depth view if what happened in the Secret Service.
Published 4 months ago by Frances Marra
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extremely interesting reading offering great "behind the scenes" insights into the lives of our Presidents
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and well written.
Great insight from someone who has been on the inside. Many of the books on this subject are written by people who research and interview agents, but never get the depth that they... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mark S. Romney
4.0 out of 5 stars Presidential Secret Service
Another presidential insight which I found captivating.
Published 5 months ago by Jane T.
4.0 out of 5 stars An insider's view do the Secret Service with a sensitive portrait of...
This is a detailed view of the Secret Service from someone who really knows with a sensitive portrayal of Ronald Reagan as President and a person.
Published 6 months ago by Scott Willkomm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book!
Published 7 months ago by Kimberly Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great!!
Published 7 months ago by mike f hampel
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