Review by Michael BreenThe first thing that will strike you after reading No Heroes is the irony of its title. Heroes fill the pages of this book, men and women doing a dirty, dangerous, and often thankless job for little reward. Their quarry are people who have no respect for the government or its laws, and view law enforcement officials as nothing more than targets. Danny Coulson is one of these heroes, a 31-year FBI veteran, serving in numerous roles including the first head of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Though Coulson did go after bank robbers and drug dealers, the heart of this story is the conflict between the FBI and those who rejected the government and used violence to forward their goals. Coulson discusses several anti-government groups, from the black revolutionaries of the 1960s and '70s to the white supremacist groups of today, and vividly describes the struggle against these forces. It is a deadly contest, one made more difficult by the government's unceasing efforts to use lawful and non-violent means against opponents who had no such restrictions.
But the struggle against the forces of crime and terror is only half of this story. Coulson also describes the conflict within the Bureau itself. This second war is one of doers vs. drivers. Drivers were those who worried more about rules, their reputations, political maneuvering, bureaucratic infighting, and spelling errors than catching lawbreakers. This tension is a constant in the book, beginning with the ossified late Hoover era administrators and ending with the finger-pointing after the Ruby Ridge debacle. Coulson shows numerous occasions where the drivers' shortsightedness led to problems and even risked lives. Coulson's portrayal of his stresses and their cost is powerful, though his writing style may be a little rough he is, after all, first and foremost an FBI agent. But it is this raw voice of experience that makes the book so gripping. Not only a tale of stakeouts, investigations, and sieges, it is a story that engenders a greater appreciation of those who are on the front lines of the war against terrorism.
Michael Breen is a reviewer in Lawrence, Kansas.