Book Review-Left of Bang

National Security
Book Review: Left of Bang

​Black Irish Books;; 228 pages; $19.95.

Early warning systems for terrorist attacks and workplace violence incidents are a difficult proposition—impossible by some accounts. Authors Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley disagree. Left of Bang explains the process developed by the U.S. Marine Corps to shift from being the hunted to being the hunter. The authors present compelling material that can apply to security professionals in complex operating environments.

The program is based on input from experts in three general categories: identifying the enemy via observation techniques; reading and understanding the physical environment; and analyzing human behavior. The authors also discuss heuristics—ways to make quick, sound decisions based on limited information.

As a Marine Corps veteran and security professional with 20 years of experience, much of it in interview and interrogation—baselining subjects and studying behavioral cues, I found the text both intriguing and practical. It applies similar concepts in a broader, operational context and fills a longstanding void in our field.

While the text focuses on military operations, it also applies to civilian security and police operations. Security officers are tasked with making decisions based on little information, but they need to act quickly to prevent harmful acts such as theft, fraud, and sabotage. They must observe, develop baselines, and look for anomalies in six domains (kinesics, biometric cues, proxemics, geographics, iconography, and atmospherics). The "Combat Rule of Three"—three anomalies and you must decide—helps avoid overanalyzing a situation. 

The text is well organized and provides examples of how to practice these skills and use the concepts in various applications. At the conclusion of each section, key take-aways reinforce the learning objectives. And the authors' website offers valuable training materials for honing new skills. This fantastic book will help security professionals improve our ability to recognize threats and take action to protect those under our care.

Reviewer: Jay Martin, CPP, is the security manager for Goldcorp-Latin America based in Mexico City. He serves on the ASIS Petrochemical, Chemical, and Extractive Industries Security Council.