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.
This book was so good. After reading Columbine, I wanted a lighter read (so naturally, I reach for hostage negotiations…really, self?). I read a chapter at lunch every day, and let me tell you, it was difficult to put it down.
Noesner’s style is fantastic and made his stories compelling. It reads like a narrative and is written in a conversational, engaging manner. For the most part, it read in chronological order of his career and each chapter focused on an incident.
I was born in 1991, so I barely remember the events surrounding September 11th (near the time he retired). Most of his incidents occurred in the eighties and nineties. Though I’m not old enough to remember reading or watching these stories on the news, I can only imagine how it would feel for those who had. I was surprised at the amount of detail discussed in each chapter. It was thrilling.
You might even say that all of life is a negotiation. – Gary Noesner, Stalling for Time
Even if you’re not in law enforcement, I think there are plenty of lessons to be learned in this book for negotiating in your own life. For example, identifying what someone wants. Then, identify their needs. Don’t take away creature comforts. Don’t let them know they hold power over you. Don’t pressure them. Treat them like human beings.
Much of the book also discusses the adversity that the Hostage Negotiation Team faced when it was first gaining ground in the FBI. Though somewhat easy to sway an individual’s opinion in terms of HNT, it was difficult to sway the entire Bureau.
Overall, Stalling for Time was a fantastic nonfiction read. I highly recommend to those who are interested in crime or crime reporting. 5/5 on Goodreads!