RONALD KESSLER is the New York Times bestselling author of The Terrorist Watch, The Bureau, Inside the White House, and The CIA at War.
For this book about the U.S. Secret Service, Kessler (The Terrorist Watch), a former investigative reporter for the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, managed to get former agents to open up. Some of their shocking stories are hard to believe, but Kessler names most of his sources. Throw in some random critical evaluations of the Secret Service and Alan Sklar's (see Behind the Mike, LJ 3/1/09) laconic narration, and this almost seems like serious stuff. Library patrons will love it. [The Crown hc, published in August, was a New York Times best seller.-Ed.]-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"Rips the lid off the inside world of Secret Service agents and the
presidents they protect." --New York Post
"[A] fascinating expose . . . high-energy read . . . amusing, saucy, often disturbing anecdotes about the VIPs the Secret Service has protected and still protects." --USA Today
From USA TODAY, Reviewed By Don Oldenburg, Special for USA TODAY
The recent news report that corner-cutting at the U.S. Secret
Service has put President Obama's life at greater risk may be the
most attention-grabbing disclosure emerging from Ron Kessler's
latest book. But there's a lot more in this fascinating expose,
which penetrates that federal agency's longstanding mission and
tradition of sworn secrecy. Never mind that the book's title is
stiffer than the Secret Service's public persona -- dour-faced
agents wearing pressed suits, dark sunglasses and earphones,
scouring crowds for potential threats. Inside the covers, Kessler's
lively narrative is loaded with details of how the federal agents,
authorized to protect the president and other national leaders, get
the job done -- and sometimes don't. But what fuels this
high-energy read isn't Kessler's investigation of the Secret
Service's training, procedures and strategies -- from guaranteeing
the safety of the president's food to analyzing daily threats.
Instead what turns these pages are the amusing, saucy, often
disturbing anecdotes about the VIPs the Secret Service has
protected and still protects. The secrets, in other words. Some of
it would border on tabloid sensationalism if it hadn't come
directly from current and retired agents (most identified by name,
to Kessler's credit). Of course, you'd expect the salacious stories
of John Kennedy's libido, but the less-told tales of an
often-drunken and philandering Lyndon Johnson caught with his pants
down are shocking. Family-values champion Spiro Agnew had his
hotel-room peccadilloes, it seems, and nice Jimmy Carter his
animosities. Richard Nixon's peculiarities? Beyond excess.
Anecdotes of hard-to-handle members of the first families abound
here as well, including Jenna and Barbara Bush's bar-hopping,
Hillary Clinton's angry clashes with low-level White House
employees, and Nancy Reagan's cold, controlling habits.
Balancing the sordid tales are the kinder stories of presidential humanity -- like George H.W. Bush and an agent searching for hidden cookies in the middle of the night, Miss Lillian Carter delivering a six-pack to the Secret Service boys (dutifully refused), and Ronald Reagan mailing checks for thousands of dollars to needy strangers. So why the all the blabbing from zip-lipped agents? A respected journalist and former Washington Post reporter, Kessler somehow instills trust even in wary civil servants and federal bureaucrats. He did when researching such government-insider books as The Terrorist Watch and The CIA at War. He has done it again by persuading the Secret Service to cooperate, making this an insightful and entertaining story. Copyright 2009, USA TODAY. All Rights Reserved.