Painting Over Rust

Stories From a 20 Year Odyssey in the FBI

Non-Fiction - Memoir
445 Pages
Reviewed on 04/09/2023
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Author Biography

T.C. grew up in California, graduating from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, and then from CSU Fresno with a BS in Criminology and a commission as an infantry Lieutenant. He then served in the US Army as both an infantryman and an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He left the Army to accept an appointment as a Special Agent in the FBI. He then spent twenty years working on all manner of federal investigations, as well as serving as a firearms instructor at the FBI Academy and a Congressional Liaison on Capitol Hill. While working in Vermont, he attended the University of Vermont, earning an M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He is retired near Charlotte, North Carolina, slowly going to pot and driving his wife nuts, while trying to keep his kids from doing overly destructive things. This is his second book.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

As a woman who spent most of her childhood eating breakfast while being stared at by a black and white autographed and framed photo of J. Edgar Hoover, compliments of my late grandfather who worked under him, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Painting Over Rust: Stories From a 20 Year Odyssey in the FBI piqued my interest. In his comprehensive memoir, T.C. Fuller takes readers on a deep dive from his training and first day to his last, with a massive treasure trove of backstories and tales we can hardly imagine that sometimes read like fiction. They aren't. This is Fuller's account and it includes but is not at all limited to very serious cases that involve horrific accounts of the abuse and exploitation of children, balanced with moments of levity, like when a pilot belted out Lee Greenwood with a harmonica solo mid-flight, and tracking down a wanted man with the unwitting help of actor Paul Hogan.

As with any memoir, it can be very difficult to separate the author and the stories that they are sharing, how we may personally feel about certain scenarios, and the literary merit of the manuscript with regard to how well it is written from a technical standpoint, and whether or not a person who does not know or know of the author would find it engrossing. For the most part, Painting Over Rust by T.C. Fuller is cleanly written and the prose has been polished nicely. Fuller writes with authenticity and most of what he says feels conversational in style, and that goes a long way in carrying his narrative. Some of Fuller's roles and the places he was operating in are given a lot of detail, but others that would probably connect more concretely with a wider range of readers get diluted a little and show a generational gap. For example, Fuller's time at Guantanamo Bay is punctuated with statements like, “I was able to use my interview and interrogation training and experience as an FBI SA to great effect, convincing many of the detainees I spoke with to provide information of real value...” I honestly would have liked to see twelve pages on this in exchange for the twelve that detail the placement process. Still, Fuller is engaging and articulate, and I do not doubt at all that readers who have a passion for law enforcement memoirs and stories from the trenches will love this book.


Dr. T.C. Fuller’s book is excellent. Why?

Easy to read – Dr. Fuller being a very good storyteller helped the book to be easy to read. He has a very firm grasp and use of the English language; though there was one word I had to consult the dictionary to confirm the meaning. However, the context of use had given the meaning. The book isn’t written as though it was by a pontificating highbrow Oxford Solicitor whose family was near royalty.

Storytelling – I’ve heard Dr. Fuller being interviewed at least six times, if not 10 or more. A very well-spoken man, educator, and law enforcement officer. I felt like I was next to him while reading the book. He didn’t just tell the reader what was happening, he built it up and set the stage very well.

The physical book – The pages are very thick white high-quality paper made to last. The white isn’t a yellowed or eggshell with black print. The white is a brilliant white so the black letters can “jump off the page” and be read easily. The print isn’t too small, but I did wear my reading glasses to make it easier. The matte finish on the cover feels fantastic in your hands and coupled with the way Dr. Fuller tells his story, you don’t want to put it down.

Laughing – I laughed a lot while reading. If you appreciate military/cynical humor … this is the place to find it. Additionally, you will laugh at the ease of catching some who commit crimes.

Nearly to tears – Dr. Fuller sharing some of his casework will bring many nearly to tears. It isn’t shared in a graphic nature, but Dr. Fuller explains very well what humans do to others.

Dr. Fuller really cares about the FBI, United States, and his family. Through his stories and directly tell the reader, you know this about him. He doesn’t share a lot about his family, but frankly neither would I after a career in the FBI, but you can tell he is a dedicated family man. At the end of the book, he offers his personal insight to members of the FBI by name. I enjoyed reading these to experience a little “pulling back the curtain” about these individuals and not just what we heard in the news or the opinion of others.

More “pulling back the curtain” – Dr. Fuller shares where the FBI can improve as the premier law enforcement agency in the world. It somewhat surprised me to read the faults, but then after my career in government, why should the FBI be any different. I hope the FBI takes Dr. Fuller’s recommendations to heart.

I seldom read a book for enjoyment vs self-improvement/knowledge. This book was well-worth my time and financial investment. Get your copy today.