The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler: Book Review

November 5, 2014 Books to Skip, History, Nonfiction, Politics 12

Nonfiction November

This post is part of Nonfiction November hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Becca at I’m Lost in Books, and Leslie at Regular Rumination.

Nonfiction – HistoryThe First Family Detail, Ronald Kessler, nonfiction, politics, presidents, secret service
Released August, 2014

272 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary of The First Family Detail:

A behind the scenes look at protecting the First Families of the United States, by the author of In the President’s Secret Service and the journalist who first broke the recent Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia.

My Thoughts on The First Family Detail:

The First Family Detail is a mix of personal anecdotes about Presidential families and their relationships with their protective details, operational Secret Service specifics, and tales of mismanagement at the Executive level. Though I am interested in all these topics and much of the information in this book is pretty fascinating, I did find it to be mostly a rehash of In the President’s Secret Service (which I read and liked).

Secret Service agents are uniquely positioned to collect a plethora of dirt on their protectees, expose hypocrisies in their private versus public personnas, and really see into their characters. I’m definitely a sucker for some scandalous stories about politicians’ personal lives and The First Family Detail did give me a good dose of these. The problem is that I was having deja vu while reading most of them. Many of the older stories were included in In the President’s Secret Service and many of the juicy new anecdotes had already been reported by the media (i.e. Bill Clinton has a mistress in Chappaqua who doesn’t have to be screened by the Secret Service). 

The operational details of how the Secret Service does their job made for some tedious reading at times. And, I wonder how Kessler was able to divulge so many of these details to the public. I felt like a would-be assassin could learn a lot about Secret Service tactics and weak spots from reading this book. Isn’t that dangerous?!

Kessler is extremely critical of Secret Service upper management and I was interested in the sections about the recent slide in standards. He tells of many instances of management ordering agents to cut corners in their protection details and in providing security for events. He also tells of Secret Service upper management catering to political aides at the expense of the President’s and other top politicians’ safety. On the flip side, Kessler praises the rank and file agents as people who are highly ethical and dedicated to their mission of keeping the President and his family safe. He indicates they are mostly disgusted with upper management and that morale among agents is at historic lows. This piece became especially intriguing upon the Head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson’s, resignation after an armed intruder waltzed unimpeded through the White House front door.

If you’re interested in how the Secret Service works and behind the scenes stories about high ranking politicians…and, if you haven’t already read In the President’s Secret Service, then I do recommend you read this book. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.

12 Responses to “The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler: Book Review”

  1. Lisa

    This book has been on my list, but I haven’t read In My President’s Secret Service. It sounds like this is the better of the two? Thanks for the review!

    • admin

      This is the most up to date of the two…I almost felt like this was just an updated version of the first one, which is why I didn’t like it as much. But, if you haven’t read the first one, just choose this one instead.

      • Katie @ Doing Dewey

        Thanks for clarifying! I had the same question as Lisa. I think this is an interesting topic and haven’t read In The President’s Secret Service, so I think I’d enjoy this one 🙂

  2. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    I haven’t read In the President’s Secret Service, but I’ve always wanted to; I’m glad to hear that this one incorporates much of the same info; I will add it to my list! After my recent addiction to Scandal, I am definitely interested in the secrets behind the scenes – ha! Thanks for a great review, Sarah!

  3. Leila Rice

    Although the book is maybe not one I’d pick up, it’s very interesting to hear about the problems at the Secret Service given the recent news about the Pierson’s resignation, etc. I am sure that most of the agents are highly dedicated, so I hope the new management can find a way to set the agency back on the right path! They have such a critical mission.

  4. bookmammal

    I’ve read both of these and I agree that the first was more informative. This second book seemed to jump around quite a lot and also seemed a bit more tabloid-ish to me, although I will say that Kessler is an equal opportunity gossiper–he dishes on both Republican and Democrat Presidents!

    • admin

      I totally agree on equal opportunity fisher – that’s the reason I reviewed it. I don’t normally review political books, especially not one sided ones. I don’t mind it seamy tabloid-ish…I think that makes for fun reading!

  5. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

    As if my TBR needee to get any longer, but this does sound fascinating. I agree with Tara, I am addicted to Scandal too and love the behind the scenes stories. Though it might not restore my faith in our politicians.

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