Former FBI agent Jana Monroe recounts a trailblazing career in law enforcement.
On this week’s episode, Jana Monroe joins us to discuss the memoir Hearts of Darkness: Serial Killers, the Behavioral Science Unit, and My Life as a Woman in the FBI (Abrams, Oct. 10). Monroe’s lauded law enforcement career included 22 years at the FBI, where she was one of the first female profilers in their Behavioral Science Unit, focusing on serial homicide cases. As such, she had the distinction of being the agent who helped train Jodie Foster for her role as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. (Of course, the moviemakers didn’t get every detail exactly right, as she’ll tell you, but Foster, overall, earned high marks.)
While much of her work was behind the scenes—and literally underground, where the Behavioral Science Unit offices were located—she once posed as an aerobics instructor to infiltrate the Mafia; shed her four-inch heels to chase down a suspect (she caught them!); and has felt the buzz of bullets whipping through her hair. These and many other remarkable stories are on offer in her candid, insightful debut memoir. Here’s a bit from Kirkus’ review:
“As a child, Monroe idolized Dirty Harry, and after majoring in criminology in college, she became a probation officer and then a police officer in Southern California. In 1985, her decision to apply to the FBI ended her first marriage, to a man who mistakenly thought that Monroe’s ‘feminist determination to succeed in law enforcement would yield over time to a woman’s natural desire to bear children and mother them above all else’…. The author is clear about the determination it took to thrive in the ‘male-driven and male-defined world of the FBI.’ She makes no bones about the challenges she faced, nor does she shy away from describing the ‘psychological toll’ of the job. Refreshingly, Monroe injects some humor amid the descriptions of pure evil…[T]he author is an affable narrator, and her career accomplishments need no embellishment. Fans of true crime will find much to enjoy in this absorbing chronicle of criminology.”
Monroe tells me why she chose to dedicate Hearts of Darkness to the many victims of violent crimes and the loved ones who grieve their loss; and how she wrote the book to encourage others—especially women—to pursue their professional goals. We chat about her work as first operational assistant director at the FBI, in charge of helping create and develop their cyber division; her work in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit; the positive experience of mentoring Jodie Foster for her role in The Silence of the Lambs; the relatively negative experience of mentoring another famous actor who shall remain nameless (on the podcast, but not the page); the dangers of leaving your crime scene analysis photos on the wall; her love of Dirty Harry; the time she shed her four-inch polka dot heels to chase down a suspect; the importance of keeping an open mind, even when interviewing convicted killers; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
Throwback by Maurene Goo (Zando Young Readers)
There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds, illus. by Jerome & Jarrett Pumphrey (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum)
Lou Reed: The King of New York by Will Hermes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner)
ALSO MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE:
Selected Letters of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad & David Roessel with Christa Frantantoro
Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis
Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:
The First Revolutions in the Minds of the Peopleby James C. Thompson II
Racee Acee and the Toboggan Race by Debbie Hepner
Dark Agendas of Power by Kevin Glenn
A Cup of Malice by John Cain
At the Court of Broken Dreams by Laurence Baillie Brown
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise