Whitcomb is just the kind of guy who could restore a bit of faith in the FBI.




A cocky yet intelligent account of the making and actions of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team operator, by one of their own.

After a painful amount of training, the Hostage Rescue Team, like firefighters and spies, sit through long periods of tedium, interrupted by furious, adrenaline-charged activity. Special Agent Whitcomb very neatly blends his tough guy patter—“They teach us to take out the brain stem”—with unexpected and pleasing wordplay: “Even at 2:07 a.m., the air feels rheumy against my skin.” He explains how he got involved in the FBI in the first place; his extensive academy training; a whole lot of technical information on the tools of his trade; his first years on the job (including interviewing people who claimed to have been kidnapped by Martians); and his preparation to join the Hostage Rescue Team as a sniper. This is all impressive stuff, but the meat of the story comes in the blow-by-blow narratives of his more high-profile missions. These include the unpleasantness up on Ruby Ridge in Idaho (“The FBI, like most government bureaucracies, tries to swat flies with frying pans”), busts of drug gangs, and a journey into the killing grounds of Kosovo. Most dreadfully, he was also part of the disaster in Waco. Whitcomb is not your standard-issue killing machine; he has feelings and he is not afraid to speak them. The gassing and deaths of children at the Branch Davidian compound tear him to pieces, but as he notes, it took the FBI apart as well. He believes that a better organization can rise in its stead, that “we could heal,” and so he keeps at the job, understanding that he can do good in the shadow of the past.

Whitcomb is just the kind of guy who could restore a bit of faith in the FBI.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-60103-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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