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Stalling for Time

My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

May 31, 2010 – Noesner, a former FBI hostage negotiator for 23 years, was the first person to run the bureau's Crisis Negotiation Unit. Looking back, he recalls some major standoffs along with his efforts to understand and interpret the behavior of hostage takers, sometimes finding negotiations thwarted by the actions of his own colleagues. The compelling centerpiece of the book is Noesner's analysis of "what went wrong at Waco" with the Branch Davidians when negotiation and tactical teams were working at cross purposes. After opening with a dramatic account of a man who abducted his estranged common-law wife and their son and was holding a gun to her head, Noesner describes his own "quintessentially American childhood," when he got the idea for his life's work from a segment about the FBI on The Mickey Mouse Club. Drawing on official reports, personal notes, memos, and memories of conversations, he writes with a simple style that nevertheless generates much suspense, recreating past events with a vivid intensity certain to fascinate true crime readers.

Customer Reviews

Stalling for Time-Great Read

Extremely well written...I had trouble putting this one down in the morning and going to work! Very useful concepts for everyday life events when it's best to "stall for time" rather than react with emotion.

Feel fortunate to have this window into a world which we typically only see through the eyes of media reports. I'll never read a news event the same way.

Many thanks to the author for the courage to pen this book.

Highly recommend!

Very insightful

This is a very interesting book about the many things going on behind the scenes of many crisis situations. Well written, well documented, lots of detail, but never plodding.

Stalling for Time
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: True Crime
  • Published: Sep 21, 2010
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings