Book Review: reading for the well-rounded security professional

Derek Knights
Monday August 20, 2018
Written by Derek Knights
I’ve been reviewing books for Canadian Security for a dozen years or so — more than a quarter of its existence — so I’m either experienced or old.

But in any case, it’s been a great run so far. I’ve learned a lot from some wonderful books (and a few stinkers) and I hope I’ve helped others learn something, too. When Neil Sutton, Canadian Security’s editor, suggested a recap of some memorable books, I readily agreed. It’s been a great trip down memory lane.

Most of the books I’ve reviewed have been ones I’ve chosen myself. But a number of books came from publishers sending them to the magazine, or an editor hearing of books they thought the readership would find value in.

The publisher of JP Bloch,  a Connecticut university professor who writes sociology and criminology books, sent us a copy of his novel, “Identity Thief.” That was the first and, so far the only time, the magazine has published a review of a work of fiction (Nov/Dec 2014 issue).

But in the “real world,” three from 2010 stand out: “The Canadian Security Professionals Guide” (March); “No One Would Listen — A True Financial Thriller” (May); and “Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History” (July/August).

In the first, author Christopher Menary provided the perfect guide for the entry-level security officer who wants to go places. Then Harry Markopolos tells the mesmerizing story of how he tried for 10 years to warn the U.S. government about Bernie Madoff — but no one would listen. It’s a great lesson in not seeing the forest for the trees! In “Flawless,” two journalists tell the story of the 2003 Antwerp diamond heist, also in true thriller fashion.

While Markopolos’ book warns of governmental and regulator inaction, “Flawless” gives tremendous “how-not-to” lessons for security professionals and bad guys.

In October 2012, I had to share the magazine with my own boss, Carol Osler, who was Security Director of the Year that year and featured on the cover. In that issue, the review was Bruce Schneier’s terrific “Liars and Outliers” — still a book that no security professional should overlook.

There are a few I really must speak about: two by Daniel Levitin, “The Organized Mind” (Sept/Oct 2015) and “A Field Guide to Lies — Critical Thinking In the Information Age” (Jan/Feb 2017). Every security professional or investigator should read these. And Heather MacDonald’s “The War On Cops — How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe” (Mar/Apr 2017), where the reader needs to exercise critical thinking.

On management issues, there’s two versions of Bruce Tulgan’s book “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y” (Oct 2009) and “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials” (Jan/Feb 2018). Levitin’s two and at least one of Tulgan’s should be required reading for anyone in security and investigations who is working with incoming employees.

Why? Because the new worker is different. How different? Well, read Tom Nichol’s “The Death of Expertise — The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” (May/June 2017).

But of all the books I’ve read and reviewed here, probably the ones that have the most immediate value are any (or all) of the ones I’ve mentioned in previous compilations:

• “A Street Officer’s Guide to Report  Writing,” by Frank Scalise and Douglas Strohsal
• “Write Well,” by Judge Mark Painter
• “The Elements of Technical Writing,” by Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly
• “The Elements of Style,” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
• “Writing Without Bullsh*t,” by Josh Bernoff

And, to ensure your communications are not only technically correct, but “politically” correct as well, check out “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up,” by James Horgan with Grania Litwin (Mar/Apr 2018).

Let’s face it, security and investigative services are basically a specialized type of customer service. Providing it poorly using outdated techniques, ignoring new technology, failing to be the leader in the customer-provider relationship, and then ultimately delivering a poorly written product is not tomorrow’s business model. So, for heaven’s sake, read some books.


Derek Knights is the principal of Knights Business Writing Services.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Canadian Security.

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