Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Shoot! We're Republicans!

Memoirs of the FBI Agent Who Did Things His Way
Jack Owens

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

(Jacques Revaux, Paul Anka, Gilles Thibaut and Claude Francois)

Which of course he didn't or he would have quickly been out of a job. Don't Shoot! We're Republicans! is a memoir of his career in the FBI by an agent who retired after 30 years of service. He made some arrests without calling for backup and once used an old yellow Volkswagen and a pair of jeans to get close enough to a fugitive to grab him. He did need a haircut in the '70s, but then who didn't? Jack Owens writes with self depreciating humor and expresses some strong opinions. He is especially opinionated about the relative merits of the several FBI directors that he worked under. J. Edgar Hoover topping the list.

Owens joined the FBI in 1969, while Hoover was still alive. Hoover had headed the FBI since the late 1920s and was famous for the demands he put on his agents; white shirts, blue suits, wing tip shoes and no coffee in the office. He was also famous for blackmailing members of Congress and dressing up in women's clothes, but Owens doesn't believe any of that. He liked directors that had been field agents and not those that were appointed despite a lack of law enforcement experience. Who would have guessed?

Owens stories of chasing down fugitives, cosying up to Soviet spies and subduing rioting federal prisoners with the SWAT team are well told and interesting. He gives the impression that every day is an adventure, glossing over the long hours of report writing and unproductive cold call interviews. He does mention the reports in passing and a few stake outs in his BuCar (Bureau car). Did I mention there is a lot of FBI jargon in the book?

I discovered through Google search that Jack Owens was briefly on the 1993 season of the CBS "reality" show Big Brother. The news of his being voted out of the house still reverberates through the reality show bulletin boards. Perhaps Owens was more of a loose cannon than thought.

The title of the book comes from a story of a road block, where a group of blue haired old ladies is rousted out their car at gunpoint. They had been driving right behind the suspect and were at first thought to be accomplices. I don't think Owens would have shot them, even if they had been Democrats.


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