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RatSnakes: Cheating Death by Living A Lie: Inside the Explosive World of ATF's Undercover Agents and How We Changed the Game

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Get ready to infiltrate the dangerous, secret world of criminals and cover identities by way of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—where the world’s greatest undercover agents are known as RatSnakes. RatSnakes are rarely, if ever, visible to the public they move among and risk their lives to protect. In fact, because of their cover personas, Get ready to infiltrate the dangerous, secret world of criminals and cover identities by way of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—where the world’s greatest undercover agents are known as RatSnakes. RatSnakes are rarely, if ever, visible to the public they move among and risk their lives to protect. In fact, because of their cover personas, they’re often assumed to be members of the clandestine criminal world they investigate. Real undercover work is a far cry from the sexy, candy-colored world you’ve seen in movies. Vincent A. Cefalu would know. He spent 30 years as an ATF undercover operative, in assignments ranging from the Symbionese Liberation Army to Asian organized crime. He has infiltrated notorious outlaw motorcycle gangs as well as splinter groups of the Ku Klux Klan, and in RatSnakes he provides an up-close look at the organization and the operatives with whom he risked his life. In this heart-pounding thrill-ride, Cefalu takes readers on a tour of what it’s like to confront death on a daily basis. En route, he gives us a look at the on-the-job techniques of kicking in doors, orchestrating “street theater” to ensnare criminals, and making high-stakes gun buys. His irreverent, explicit stories from the inside are a mix of danger and unexpected hilarity that will have readers laughing one minute and then biting their nails when things break bad. Immersive and brutal, RatSnakes offers an in-depth look into the lives of an elite group of men and women who volunteer to do things most couldn’t stomach.


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Get ready to infiltrate the dangerous, secret world of criminals and cover identities by way of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—where the world’s greatest undercover agents are known as RatSnakes. RatSnakes are rarely, if ever, visible to the public they move among and risk their lives to protect. In fact, because of their cover personas, Get ready to infiltrate the dangerous, secret world of criminals and cover identities by way of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—where the world’s greatest undercover agents are known as RatSnakes. RatSnakes are rarely, if ever, visible to the public they move among and risk their lives to protect. In fact, because of their cover personas, they’re often assumed to be members of the clandestine criminal world they investigate. Real undercover work is a far cry from the sexy, candy-colored world you’ve seen in movies. Vincent A. Cefalu would know. He spent 30 years as an ATF undercover operative, in assignments ranging from the Symbionese Liberation Army to Asian organized crime. He has infiltrated notorious outlaw motorcycle gangs as well as splinter groups of the Ku Klux Klan, and in RatSnakes he provides an up-close look at the organization and the operatives with whom he risked his life. In this heart-pounding thrill-ride, Cefalu takes readers on a tour of what it’s like to confront death on a daily basis. En route, he gives us a look at the on-the-job techniques of kicking in doors, orchestrating “street theater” to ensnare criminals, and making high-stakes gun buys. His irreverent, explicit stories from the inside are a mix of danger and unexpected hilarity that will have readers laughing one minute and then biting their nails when things break bad. Immersive and brutal, RatSnakes offers an in-depth look into the lives of an elite group of men and women who volunteer to do things most couldn’t stomach.

48 review for RatSnakes: Cheating Death by Living A Lie: Inside the Explosive World of ATF's Undercover Agents and How We Changed the Game

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Geha

    RatSnakes by Vincent A. Cefalu Cheating Death by Living A Lie: Inside the Explosive World of ATF's Undercover Agents and How We Changed the Game Reading the memoirs and anecdotes of Cefalu’s years working for the ATF was both interesting and eye opening. I learned a bit of the history and jobs that the department did in the past and continues to do in the present. I learned about the adrenaline rush it must be to make life or death decisions at the drop of a hat. Being able to trust the people you RatSnakes by Vincent A. Cefalu Cheating Death by Living A Lie: Inside the Explosive World of ATF's Undercover Agents and How We Changed the Game Reading the memoirs and anecdotes of Cefalu’s years working for the ATF was both interesting and eye opening. I learned a bit of the history and jobs that the department did in the past and continues to do in the present. I learned about the adrenaline rush it must be to make life or death decisions at the drop of a hat. Being able to trust the people you work with while undercover is a must. Being able to trust your superiors would be a good thing but it is not a given. Having those in power not see the picture from your perspective, not have experience and yet be making decisions and then at times turn against you must be demoralizing. I enjoyed reading about the people on Cefalu’s team and also about some experiences they had. I came away wondering if I would be able to do the jobs they did or if I would fit into their group...and...decided perhaps not. That said, I truly admire what these men and women do and the service they provide. Thank you to NetGalley and Ben Bella Books for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4 Stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    RatSnakes....the name given to undercover ATF agents. The author served as a RatSnake for over twenty years. This book is his story, and the story of other undercover ATF agents he served with. The book is a fast read. I found it very hard to put down. The stories Cefalu tells, and the situations he and his fellow officers experienced, were fascinating to me. The author was a man of many faces. One day he could be an outlaw biker, the next a drug dealer. How he pulled them off is a great story! RatSnakes....the name given to undercover ATF agents. The author served as a RatSnake for over twenty years. This book is his story, and the story of other undercover ATF agents he served with. The book is a fast read. I found it very hard to put down. The stories Cefalu tells, and the situations he and his fellow officers experienced, were fascinating to me. The author was a man of many faces. One day he could be an outlaw biker, the next a drug dealer. How he pulled them off is a great story! Danger, paranoia, fear, hard drinking, fast living, it's all here. He describes a multitude of cases he worked, and they were all interesting. Cefalu chose to remain an undercover for his entire career. His disdain for his "higher-ups" is palpable, to put it mildly. In my own law-enforcement career, I had many friends who stayed "in the trenches", who did not want to be promoted. And I saw their contempt for those who worked in the "puzzle palace" (DC). I chose to advance in my career, and got to experience the world through the eyes of those in the puzzle palace. And I witnessed some of the same antics that Cefalu experienced. People who would sell their souls for that next promotion. And who would screw over anyone who got in their way. I worked hard to maintain my appreciation for those who were on the front line. I hope that I succeeded, at least I know that I can sleep at night knowing that I did not become one of "them". The beginning of the book was fantastic. I really enjoyed reading the case that Cefalu worked. Towards the middle of the book, I grew rather frustrated and weary of the author's disdain for his "superiors". It really got old. But, by the end of the book, I could see the author's motivation. You could see his sense of duty, and of doing the right thing. I was left with the impression that he was a good man, put into some very bad situations, and came out with his honor intact. And that is a successful life. I wish him well in his retirement. And salute him for his sacrifices and service.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Maestas

    As self professed true crime nerd, this freshman page turner by SA Vince Cefalu hit all the chords for me. There were plenty of “good guys/bad guys” stories from SURE, but I think some of my favorite parts of Ratsnakes were the history of the BATF and what the agency (and the agents) have endured over the years. My father was an ATF agent in the generation preceeding Agent Cefalu, so his ATF was certainly different, however the common thread of brotherhood is woven throughout. This read is not f As self professed true crime nerd, this freshman page turner by SA Vince Cefalu hit all the chords for me. There were plenty of “good guys/bad guys” stories from SURE, but I think some of my favorite parts of Ratsnakes were the history of the BATF and what the agency (and the agents) have endured over the years. My father was an ATF agent in the generation preceeding Agent Cefalu, so his ATF was certainly different, however the common thread of brotherhood is woven throughout. This read is not for the faint of heart, but undercover work is messy. Bravo, sir! Thank you for your transparency in sharing your story, and thank you for your service!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Walter

    Ever leary of super-cop books I almost didn't read this one. Now I'm done I don't know if I can call the author a super cop... Because he really didn't tell us much. Rather the book was a few interesting ancidotes and tons of ATF rules and policies. Even if he tried to skip most of his career and focus on one or two, including "the big one at rhe end" and turning whistle blower in the ATF it could have been a worthwhile read. But I'm still not even sure what happened there. Not everyone can write Ever leary of super-cop books I almost didn't read this one. Now I'm done I don't know if I can call the author a super cop... Because he really didn't tell us much. Rather the book was a few interesting ancidotes and tons of ATF rules and policies. Even if he tried to skip most of his career and focus on one or two, including "the big one at rhe end" and turning whistle blower in the ATF it could have been a worthwhile read. But I'm still not even sure what happened there. Not everyone can write a book, even if there's a good story to tell. You would think a guy who spent his life blending in and pretending he was someone else would know what a ghost writer was.

  5. 4 out of 5

    gnarlyhiker

    Fast read; so fast don’t really remember much. No depth, just a bunch of vignettes. good luck **ARC/Netgalley

  6. 5 out of 5

    Milan Vrekic

    This book proves a point. ATF is just a loosely coupled bunch of a-holes. I picked up the book to try to improve my impression of the ATF and in turn it just made it worse.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt Graham

    If you like listening to cocky jocks tell "ya had to be there" stories back from their time in a fraternity, then you'll love this read. If you like listening to cocky jocks tell "ya had to be there" stories back from their time in a fraternity, then you'll love this read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Breane Ross

    Received an arc from netgalley. Both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Definitely recommend it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Autumn Ament

    I loved this book, it was like sitting across from your favorite uncle and listening to him tell all his stories. I can’t wait to reread it and will definitely be purchasing copies for presents!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dav

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Dotcity

  12. 4 out of 5

    Evan

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katalin Wright

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Voss

  15. 5 out of 5

    Russ Baxley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Terri E Zimmerman

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hal Edwards

  18. 5 out of 5

    Frans

  19. 5 out of 5

    Linda S.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan Danger

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gayle G Rizzio

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bmkeene

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I wanted to read this book because of the title and description. I kind of had in mind that it would be a procedural book....maybe describe a few cases. Instead I learned a whole bunch about ATF agents in general. History of the ATF ( I had no clue how it all began ), and a pretty deep appreciation for the work these agents do. There is some about poor choices, illegal activity and outright corruption regarding the upper echelon of the ATF, which did result in a whistleblower lawsuit, but prima I wanted to read this book because of the title and description. I kind of had in mind that it would be a procedural book....maybe describe a few cases. Instead I learned a whole bunch about ATF agents in general. History of the ATF ( I had no clue how it all began ), and a pretty deep appreciation for the work these agents do. There is some about poor choices, illegal activity and outright corruption regarding the upper echelon of the ATF, which did result in a whistleblower lawsuit, but primarily this book contains snippets of what these agents do everyday. I feel like I learned enough to appreciate how difficult it was to hide those first recorder devices ( OMG ), how easily a thing can go wrong and how these agents must be able to think fast. This book does not give away any secrets of how an agent does his job...except in the most basic way ( how much planning, coordination and so on.) I know the next time I see a guy that looks like a potential outlaw at my grocery store....I am going to be thinking...I wonder if he his ATF? Pretty good book

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom Kavanagh

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nikola

  29. 4 out of 5

    Myron T Petro

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theislandofthedaybefore

  31. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

  32. 4 out of 5

    Adam Jones

  33. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  34. 5 out of 5

    Amie's Book Reviews

  35. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Janson

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  37. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  38. 5 out of 5

    Tara

  39. 4 out of 5

    Chris Collins

  40. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

  41. 4 out of 5

    camilo cienfuegos

  42. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  43. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Christian

  44. 4 out of 5

    David

  45. 4 out of 5

    Matt Z

  46. 5 out of 5

    Rob Pekas

  47. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Hunter

  48. 4 out of 5

    Alex Rohrer

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