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Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service Paperback – February 21, 2006


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Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service + In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (February 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031233222X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312332228
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book was very enjoyable and a easy read!
H.R.H. Taufa' Ahua Tupou IV
The author does a great job of giving us the inside facts on life in the Secret Service, plus some wonderful insights into the president as a human.
DJ Reviews
I even bought another copy for a gift as I did not want to give it away after reading it.
Regina Bello

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By J. Oppenheim on 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 By Alan Blinder on 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 By Rocco B. Rubino on 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 By HarrySingle2000 on 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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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Alex Krooglik on 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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