Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator Hardcover – September 21, 2010
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top Customer Reviews
What was most startling to me was that until very recently in human history--a few decades ago--we didn't know.
The more I learned, the hungrier I got to learn more. How interesting that so much of it amounts to listening.
I had previously learned a great deal about hostage negotiators researching my book COLUMBINE. (The head of the FBI investigation in that case, Dr. Dwayne Fuselier, was a leading negotiator and I spent a great deal of time with him.) Fuselier spoke very highly of Gary Noesner, so I was curious.
I expected to skim through much it, but found myself hanging on every word. There is a great deal to learn here, and it was just as interesting to watch the story of how difficult it was to teach the FBI these ideas. Individuals picked them up rather easily, but making the institution embrace them was a bigger challenge.
My biggest surprise, though, was what a natural storyteller Noesner turned out to be. He has the easy style and readability of a lifelong novelist. It was a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable read.
There are firsthand accounts of some of the major hostage Incidents of modern times - in particular Waco and Ruby Ridge - which add to the historical record. But the tone throughout the incident stories is very much "just the facts ma'am" -- by which I mean that the stories are not played up for emotion, or even for drama. The amazing thing the author has done is to make "head FBI hostage negotiator" come across as - well - just another corporate job.
The main point that comes across from this book is the deep philosophical division within the FBI - and presumably, across the law enforcement community - between those who favor negotiation as a way to end hostage situations, and those who want to go In with guns blazing. The author is a passionate advocate of the negotiation approach, sometimes in support of tactical action, often as a solution in itself. He cites a number of examples where his advice was not followed, and he complains about the shortsightedness of his bosses in Washington and in various field situations.
What was most surprising, and frankly scary, about this book is how little science, or even modern management practice, appears to be involved in making such critical life-and-death policy decisions. The author refers to 2-week training courses for example as the entry into hostage negotiation; it takes 6 months to become a massage therapist, and 3 or 4 years to become a firefighter. And his arguments about the best approach to various situations are based on his experience, which is considerable, but he doesn't offer data to support his conclusions. I would have expected something like "the incidence of loss of life is 42% lower when the negotiator is included in tactical staff meetings" or something similarly rigorous.
Of course, it's possible that there is more to it than what comes across here - perhaps the author didn't want to give away Bureau secrets, or just felt this made for a more readable account. I would certainly sleep better if I knew that were the case. From "Stalling for Time" I come away thinking they're making it up as they go along, and while that doesn't diminish my awe of or gratitude toward those who take on such risky pursuits to protect us civilians, I would feel better if I knew that the folks In charge were making the best decisions possible.