Lindsay, Paul 1943-
LINDSAY, Paul 1943-
PERSONAL: Born 1943, in Chicago, IL. Education: MacMurray College, B.A., 1968.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Witness to the Truth: A Novel of the FBI, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
Code Name: Gentkill: A Novel of the FBI, Villard (New York, NY), 1995
Freedom to Kill: A Novel of the FBI, Villard (New York, NY), 1997.
The Führer's Reserve: A Novel of the FBI, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Traps: A Novel of the FBI, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Paul Lindsay, an ex-FBI agent, has written several novels that center on life in the Bureau. His trademark maverick style and insider's familiarity with FBI protocol—along with distaste for the more bureaucratic aspects of it—have made his work highly acclaimed. The FBI, however, expressed unhappiness with Lindsay's depiction; the conflict led to his retirement, since which he has continued to write full time.
Lindsay, who grew up in Chicago, joined the Marines after college, and served a tour of duty as a lieutenant in Vietnam; upon returning to the States, he immediately joined the FBI. He hoped that he would find the same qualities in the Bureau that he had in the Marine Corps—a group of hardworking good guys, trying to fight evil. "I bought the myth," he told Vanity Fair's Ron Rosenbaum. Lindsay, who was stationed in Detroit, became dissatisfied with the FBI when, in the mid-1980s, they began to institute a bureaucracy that assigned "Special Agents in Charge" to oversee field offices. These S.A.C.'s, Lindsay complained, had very little experience working on the street, and tended to make life miserable for the other agents. Still, Lindsay stayed on at the Bureau and became one of their top investigators, rising to fame when he solved the case of the Highland Park Strangler.
Lindsay worked as an FBI agent for almost twenty years before writing his first book, Witness to the Truth: A Novel of the FBI. He had enrolled in a local creative writing course on a whim, and, at age forty-three, discovered that he had talent. Critics agreed; according to Patricia D. Cornwell, writing in the New York Times Book Review, "Lindsay is frighteningly good," and Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times Book Review noted that the book had a "salty tang of authenticity, continuous action and suspense, and a good deal of street humor." Starring Agent Mike Devlin, whom Cornwell called "a refreshingly unassuming hero," Witness to the Truth is set in Lindsay's turf—the streets of Detroit. Agent Devlin, who's been assigned to midnight wiretap duty as punishment for his insubordination, and his agent-in-training, Livingston, tackle a Mafia mole while pursuing the kidnapper of an agent's daughter. "[Devlin] is funny, articulate and involved with a cast of characters as bizarre as they are believable," Cornwell wrote. "Mr. Lindsay's first novel is a delight."
Many critics were particularly impressed with Lindsay's incorporation of FBI protocol and understanding of cop mentality. "His insider knowledge gives the quirky plot twists welcome credibility," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Lindsay is particularly interested in the maverick cops who seek justice above all else—and sometimes take matters into their own hands. Rosenbaum highlighted a few of the more shocking details: "There are dark hints of cops threatening to launch suspects from the windows of tall buildings to make them confess, of despised felons being 'taken for a ride' by cops who don't trust the legal system to 'do justice.'" But these revelations about the system were not what made the FBI so angry at Lindsay. "What makes Lindsay's story sizzle [is] his wry, dead-on sniping at Bureau mentality," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Lindsay portrays the FBI as "a stifling bureaucracy peopled with a lot of organization types," wrote a Mystery Guide reviewer; indeed, Agent Devlin finds as many "bad guys" within the Bureau as without. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted Lindsay's ability to "skewer stuffed-shirt bureaucrats while shining the badge of the dedicated agent." The FBI, not at all pleased with this representation, threatened to pull Lindsay off the serial-killer case he was working on; in July of 1993 they made a deal, and Lindsay retired from the FBI.
Lindsay's second book, Code Name: Gentkill: A Novel of the FBI, finds Agent Devlin in another dead-end, FBI-purgatory sort of situation—this time, he's been assigned to surveillance of gamblers as punishment for offending the Special Agent in Charge. Devlin finds himself working on two cases (one with the S.A.C.'s approval, one without) involving a murderer and a blackmailer who threatens to blow up a children's hospital. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that the plot was not entirely cohesive, with "the two story lines never quite meshing as the author seems to intend," although other critics admired the novel's frenetic energy. "Once again, Lindsay shows that he can do it all—cat-and-mouse plotting, deliciously nasty Bureau byplay, sharp domestic vignettes, [and] dozens of sparkling anecdotes," a writer for Kirkus Reviews noted. Mystery Guide's reviewer also wrote favorably of the exploration of Devlin's home life: "This book is most notable for a raw and revealing look inside a law-enforcement marriage under crisis."
Agent Devlin is also the star of Lindsay's third book, Freedom to Kill: A Novel of the FBI. Here Devlin battles the so-called "Freedom Killer," a megalomaniac psycho who threatens to shut the country down. As with his earlier books, "procedural investigation is the mainstay," noted Booklist's Gilbert Taylor, but the narrative is also packed with "cliff-hanging action." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that Lindsay has "made a believable maverick out of Devlin, somebody who automatically runs into a fire to see whom he can save." A writer for Kirkus Reviews, however, felt that Devlin's "hair-trigger individuality . . . seems stifled" in this novel, which is "expert but synthetic, then, with a much better part for the brilliant, wigged-out Freedom Killer (who doesn't half live up to his billing) than for our hero." Chris Petrakos of Tribune Books wrote that he "enjoyed the large-scale madness of the villain."
Lindsay leaves Agent Devlin behind and branches out into the international scene in his next book, The Führer's Reserve: A Novel of the FBI. In what Taylor called an "entertaining, intricate yarn," Lindsay's new hero, Agent Taz Fallon, and beautiful art historian Sivia Roth are trying to recover priceless works of art stolen by the Third Reich. Fallon "swashbuckles through neo-Nazi assassins and psychotic Third Reich holdouts" while "playing his uptight FBI boss like a baby grand," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Although the elaborate plot is full of "conscientiously planted surprises," a writer for Kirkus Reviews found it "just a wee bit predictable."
Traps: A Novel of the FBI, finds Lindsay back in the States, this time with a burnout agent in Chicago named Jack Kincade. Paired with Ben Alton, a one-legged cancer survivor, Kincade is assigned to work on a bomb threat case that turns out to be an angry father trying to force the FBI to reopen the unresolved case on his kidnapped daughter. As in his earlier work, Lindsay includes biting commentary on the Bureau's power-hungry bosses; a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the most "impassioned" passages deal with "ambitious agents scrambling up the bureaucratic ladder, leaving the stalking of criminals to mavericks." Booklist's David Pitt called the book "sharply written, intelligent, and wholly satisfying," and ranked it as Lindsay's best work so far. Similarly, a writer for Kirkus Reviews felt that Lindsay had created "something altogether scarier, deeper, and finer" than a simple thriller—he explores "the kinds of traps the best and worst men set for each other and themselves."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1995, George Needham, review of Code Name: Gentkill: A Novel of the FBI, pp. 45-46; June 1, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of Freedom to Kill: A Novel of the FBI, p. 1666; May 15, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Führer's Reserve: A Novel of the FBI, p. 1733; September 1, 2002, David Pitt, review of Traps: A Novel of the FBI, p. 64.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1992, review of Witness to the Truth: A Novel of the FBI, pp. 872-873; July 1, 1995, review of Code Name: Gentkill, p. 885; May 15, 1997, review of Freedom to Kill, p. 744; April 15, 2000, review of The Führer's Reserve, p. 499; August 15, 2002, review of Traps, p. 1166.
Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1992, "Agent Author," p. B6.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 11, 1992, Charles Champlin, "Criminal Pursuits," review of Witness to the Truth, p. 13.
New York Times Book Review, October 18, 1992, Patricia D. Cornwell, review of Witness to the Truth, p. 32; September 24, 1995, Newgate Callendar, review of Code Name: Gentkill, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1992, review of Witness to the Truth, pp. 47; June 19, 1995, review of Code Name: Gentkill, p. 47; May 26, 1997, review of Freedom to Kill, p. 63; April 24, 2000, review of The Führer's Reserve, p. 62; September 16, 2002, review of Traps, pp. 50-51.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 27, 1997, Chris Petrakos, "The Killer's Trail: Murder and Sabotage from the Wilderness to Disney World," review of Freedom to Kill, p. 5.
Vanity Fair, April, 1993, Ron Rosenbaum, "The FBI's Agent Provocateur," pp. 122-136.
Ann Online,http://www.annonline.com/ (May 28, 2003), Ann Devlin, interview with Paul Lindsay.
Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (May 28, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Traps.
Hippo Press,http://www.hippopress.com/ (May 28, 2003), Lisa Vermette, review of Traps.
Mostly Fiction,http://mostlyfiction.com/ (May 28, 2003), review of Traps.
Mystery Guide,http://www.mysteryguide.com/ (May 28, 2003), reviews of Code Name: Gentkill and Witness to the Truth.*