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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.