The Protective Intelligence Summer Reading List


When you write books, people always ask you what you like to read. I put together a list of books focused on protective intelligence last year — a mix of predictable and unpredictable choices.

As background, I’ve always been a reader of non-fiction and thrillers as I know many are within the protection and intelligence business. Let’s face it, there is lots of time to read in follow cars, in down rooms, or while stuck in airports and on long flights. When I’m working on a new book — which I am right now — I tend to focus on research books and journals on the era and topic, but I always make time for a good book and thriller!

So, here is my summer 2021 recommended book list:

ZERO FAIL: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, by Carol Leonnig.

Having worked at the Secret Service a lifetime ago — when revolvers were the standard issue — I believe Leoning did tremendous job of capturing the history of protection failures, the current mood and mindset in the ranks, the politics of the position, and moments of shear fear and chaos, while in the very difficult task of protecting the President of the United States. We had the good fortune of having the author on our podcast for those who would like a sneak peek. The book was thought provoking and scary. Read this book to understand the challenging job of the brave men and women standing next to the most powerful person in the world.

TAKING MR. EXXON: The Kidnapping of an Oil Giant’s President, by Philip Jett

In the field of protection, I’m a firm believer of learning from disaster and history. Philip Jett has a gift of storytelling that also provides extremely useful information to those saddled with the responsibility of keeping people alive. The author’s first book about the kidnapping of Adolph Coors in Colorado was on my list last year; and this year, Philip is back again with TAKING MR. EXXON. Needless to say, the physical security and protective intelligence lessons in both of these books resonate loudly today. For example, the degree and scope of surveillance conducted by the kidnap team was scary. Would a counter-surveillance team prevented the kidnapping? Read this story and make your own conclusions. For an added bonus, we had the author on our podcast earlier this year.

KILL SHOT: A Shadow Industry, a Deadly Disease, by Jason Dearen

In our current pandemic world, a timely (but scary) book by an award-winning investigative journalist about a deadly drug contamination outbreak. We had Jason on our podcast earlier this year to discuss his extraordinary research into a topic that all of us need to be aware of.





LICENSE TO PARENT: How My Career as a Spy Helped Me Raise Resourceful, Self-Reliant Kids, by Christina Hillsberg and Ryan Hillsberg

The Hillsberg’s have put together an engaging book on how to raise kids in our complex world drawing parallels from their global experience and training with the CIA. We had Christina Hillsberg on our podcast for a lively discussion about her background, the CIA, and their book.





ORIGINALS: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant

“Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.” There are lots of thought-provoking lessons in Grant’s book, beginning with his first chapter on “Creative Destruction.” It reminded me of the 1980’s when we were trying to implement a new and better way of protection.




BLACK ICE, by Brad Thor

I’m a big believer in security officers reading fiction because it keeps you thinking about scenarios that could unfold in the real world. Nobody writes a better thriller than my friend Brad Thor, who sent an advance copy of his 20th book of his best-selling Scot Harvath series. To be blunt, Brad is the new Tom Clancy. Black Ice doesn’t disappoint — it’s tremendous, with a shocking end. We had Brad on our podcast about his first book which centers on a protection fiasco so it’s wonderful to watch the development of his character and the plot lines that have unfolded over the years. His hero Scot Harvath just keeps getting better. Now, I must wait another year for the next one….


The Devil’s Hand, by Jack Carr

James Reece is the new Jack Bauer. I read Jack’s latest thriller, The Devil’s Hand, in two days. It’s action-packed, filled with surprises, and the storyline is ripped from the headlines. If you are a fan of cool gear, his website is full of recommendations and information onhis up-coming TV series. In the spirit of full disclosure, Jack Carr is a good friend. He’s been very kind to me over the years and gone out of his way to promote my books which has been very humbling.



RADIOFLASH, by Mark Hipp

Radioflash is a fast-paced thriller with lots of twists and turns, written by Mark J. Hipp, a former DSS special agent colleague of mine. Mark knows the dangerous world that DSS is saddled to protect and their complicated global mission. No agency does more with less. Trust me, I know.





Don’t let the summer pass by without reading one (or all eight) from this list. You’ll learn something, be entertained, and have a mental escape from the growing demands of the protection industry.