Stalling for Time
My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator
By Gary Noesner
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067251, 226pp.)
Publication Date: September 21, 2010
List Price: $26.00*
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An enraged man abducts his estranged wife and child, holes up in a secluded mountain cabin, threatening to kill them both. A right wing survivalist amasses a cache of weapons and resists calls to surrender. A drug trafficker barricades himself and his family in a railroad car, and begins shooting. A cult leader in Waco, Texas faces the FBI in an armed stand-off that leaves many dead in a fiery blaze. A sniper, claiming to be God, terrorizes the DC metropolitan area. For most of us, these are events we hear about on the news. For Gary Noesner, head of the FBI’s groundbreaking Crisis Negotiation Unit, it was just another day on the job.
In Stalling for Time, Noesner takes readers on a heart-pounding tour through many of the most famous hostage crises of the past thirty years. Specially trained in non-violent confrontation and communication techniques, Noesner’s unit successfully defused many potentially volatile standoffs, but perhaps their most hard-won victory was earning the recognition and respect of their law enforcement peers.
Noesner pursued his dream of joining the FBI all the way to Quantico, where he not only became a Special Agent, but also—in the course of a distinguished thirty-year career—the FBI’s Chief Negotiator. Gaining respect for the fledgling art of crisis negotiation in the hard-boiled culture of The Bureau, where the shadow of J. Edgar Hoover still loomed large, was an uphill battle, educating FBI and law enforcement leaders on the job at an incident, and advocating the use of psychology rather than force whenever possible. Noesner’s many bloodless victories rarely garnered as much media attention as the notorious incident management blunders like the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco and the Ruby Ridge tragedy.
Noesner offers a candid as well as fascinating look back at his years as a rebel in the ranks and a pioneer on the front lines. Whether vividly recounting showdowns with the radical Republic of Texas militia, the terrorist hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and self-styled messiah David Koresh, or clashes with colleagues and superiors that expose the internal politics and power-plays of America’s premier law enforcement agency, Stalling for Time crackles with breathtaking suspense and insight in equal measure. Case by case, minute by minute, it’s a behind the scenes view of a visionary crime-fighter in action.
Praise for Stalling for Time
"Gary Noesner is a gripping storyteller, and man, does the guy have stories. It's like watching an emotional bomb squad defuse explosive personalities. The big surprise is how recently the FBI learned the basic tenets of what makes a man put the gun down, a discovery story as captivating as the hostage standoffs that illuminate it."
—Dave Cullen, Author of Columbine
“Gary Noesner has done something remarkable with this book, turning the murky process of hostage negotiations into a set of predictable and clear routes to bargaining success."—Robert B. Cialdini, bestselling author of Influence: Science and Practice
“Tortured people, desperate moments, dangerous solutions. Stalling For Time takes us deep into the lethal world of hostages, sieges, and terrorsism. Gary Noesner, a thirty year veteran of the Bureau, has written a landmark work that’s both a nail-biting thriller and an expose of timely importance. This is a must-read not only for true crime fans but for every cop and G-Man in the country.”
—John Huddy, bestselling author of Storming Las Vegas
"Stalling for Time reads with the page-turning intensity of a first-rate thriller, only everything here is, remarkably, true. In finally opening up about his craft -- about his 30 years spent reasoning with unreasonable people in situations that were literally life and death -- Gary Noesner has written an essential book about the fine art of communication. For anyone who wants to know how to stay cool under fire, this book is indispensable."—Douglas Stone, best-selling author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
"Gary Noesner has written an account of his decades-long career as a hostage negotiator that is so gripping it grabs the reader by the throat. It's a spectacular read and every word of it is true."
—Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know
“An intense, immersive narrative, making [Noesner’s] real-life experiences read like episodes of a good cop drama. By the end of the book, readers will be impressed by the number of crucial moments in which Noesner has played a significant role—from the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985 to the Freeman militia standoff in Montana in 1996. Vicariously entertaining.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The world doesn’t need me to tell them that Gary Noesner has been there, and done that. There are hundreds of living victims across the globe that are living testament to Gary’s abilities to successfully negotiate, or teach others effective crisis negotiation.” —Lt. Tom Monahan, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept., Director, Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center
“Crisis Negotiations requires experience, a cool head, the ability to think on your feet in the face of extreme threat ... and Gary personified each and every element. It was an honor to work with him and to learn my skills from the very best.”—Byron A. Sage, Retired FBI Crisis Negotiator
“Due to his effusive personality, ability to articulate his broad knowledge and experience, and renowned sense of humor, Gary Noesner is undoubtedly the foremost federal ambassador to American law enforcement in the field of critical incident management in general and crisis negotiations in particular. Experienced and knowledgeable crisis negotiators have learned that when Gary Noesner speaks we need to listen. It is in large part due to Gary and a very few others that crisis negotiations enjoys the noble position of respect and effectiveness both within and outside the U.S. that it does.”—William "Bill" Kidd, Crisis Negotiator since 1974 San Francisco PD and Sonoma County Sheriff's Office
“Gary Noesner’s passion for the art of hostage/crisis negotiations has influenced hundreds, probably thousands, of police negotiators in the world. His enthusiasm for this highly perfected skill is contagious.”—Bruce A. Wind, Crisis Negotiator, Seattle Police Department