The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle

The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle

"Meticulously reported, bracingly written, full of memorable and bizarre characters, the book casts a wary eye on the worlds of law enforcement and journalism, and their multiple failures in this tale. It’s a story with no winners – except for readers of this terrific book.” — Jeffrey ToobinThe masterful true-crimeaccountof the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing that...

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Title:The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle
Author:Kent Alexander
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The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle Reviews

  • Jenny

    Anyone over the age of 35 likely remembers the 96 Centennial Park bombing and media circus that erupted when Richard Jewell was named as a hero then suspect.

    In the early days of the internet and the 24/7 news cycle, this story captivated the world. The authors of The Suspect provide a detailed examination of the facts, the players, the egos, and the ethical implications that arose. This book is utterly absorbing and should be required reading for members of law enforcement and journalists.

    A

    Anyone over the age of 35 likely remembers the 96 Centennial Park bombing and media circus that erupted when Richard Jewell was named as a hero then suspect.

    In the early days of the internet and the 24/7 news cycle, this story captivated the world. The authors of The Suspect provide a detailed examination of the facts, the players, the egos, and the ethical implications that arose. This book is utterly absorbing and should be required reading for members of law enforcement and journalists.

    A film version of Richard Jewell’s life is in the works and this is a wonderful companion piece.

    Digital ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

  • Valerity (Val)

    This is a thoroughly researched book about the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the bombing that happened. It also goes into the suspicion of Richard Jewell and all of the media surrounding the whole thing. There were reasons for them to look at Jewell, but he was just a little too convenient a patsy. I liked the look at some of the media’s role in the story, one writer in particular. This book was even better than I expected, and refreshed my memory on what happened with the case. It also has updates

    This is a thoroughly researched book about the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the bombing that happened. It also goes into the suspicion of Richard Jewell and all of the media surrounding the whole thing. There were reasons for them to look at Jewell, but he was just a little too convenient a patsy. I liked the look at some of the media’s role in the story, one writer in particular. This book was even better than I expected, and refreshed my memory on what happened with the case. It also has updates on all of the main players from the story, which I really liked, and wrapped it all up nicely. A very good read for anyone who has any interest in the story. I learned quite a lot I didn’t know. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Kent Alexander & Kevin Salwen, and the publisher.

    First published on my WordPress blog viewed here:

  • Lauren

    The story of Richard Jewell was just a little bit before my time - but after reading this book, I feel like I lived through it. Soon to be the subject of a major motion picture, Richard Jewell was a bit of a down-and-out wannabe police officer, a portly man from North Georgia who loved police work, the authority of the badge, and “fighting crime” more than anything. He got jobs here and there in the field, working as a lowly jailor and deputy officer for Habersham County, GA and as a security

    The story of Richard Jewell was just a little bit before my time - but after reading this book, I feel like I lived through it. Soon to be the subject of a major motion picture, Richard Jewell was a bit of a down-and-out wannabe police officer, a portly man from North Georgia who loved police work, the authority of the badge, and “fighting crime” more than anything. He got jobs here and there in the field, working as a lowly jailor and deputy officer for Habersham County, GA and as a security guard for Piedmont College, before forcibly resigning from both jobs for being, well, overzealous. In Habersham, he tried to “buzz” the cruiser of a neighboring jurisdiction like they do in Top Gun, only to crash into a telephone pole and knock out power for half a mile. While working for the college, he expanded his territory without permission and started to make “courtesy traffic stops” in the town, much to the chagrin of the local police force.

    Lucky for Jewell, the 1996 Olympics were coming up right in Atlanta. Jewell hoped he could get a job with a private security firm and use that to leverage future law enforcement work. One July night in Centennial Park, a beautiful public park built for the Olympics hosting concerts and other events for visitors, Jewell was pacing his normal route. He saw a suspicious green bag underneath a bench and immediately suspected it to be a bomb. He contacted all the right folks, formed a perimeter, and when the bomb went off, it killed only two people instead of the assumed 100+ who could have died without Jewell’s actions. He was touted as a hero and brought on national TV - but a few days later, he was the FBI’s number one suspect in the crime. He fit the profile of lonely wannabe cop who had the knowledge to build a bomb, get the attention and praise, and reenter law enforcement as was his dream.

    This book is immaculately researched, detailing not only Jewell’s backstory, but that of Jewell’s friends, Olympics organizers, FBI agents, APD detectives, and key reporters from the

    . The level of detail is stunning - I can’t imagine how the Salwen and Alexander collected this volume of information and were able to synthesize it all in such a flowing, fast-paced way that hardly becomes boring. Moreover, it’s compellingly written - following in the vein of some of my favorite “nonfiction that reads like fiction” (aka narrative nonfiction) books, like

    ,

    ,

    , and

    . Although the book is lengthy, you won’t want to put it down. This was a particularly interesting read for me as I had never even heard of this event, the subsequent bombings, or the controversy around Jewell (revealing my age, probably!). I’m curious to know what this book is like for someone who lived through this whole event as it rolled out in real time. I didn’t want to be spoiled, since I wasn’t familiar with where the story went, but I will say that the ending is fantastic and exciting. There is so much to think about - where things went wrong, who was to blame, and how all of this happened in the first place.

    Remarking on Richard Jewell, Jay Leno commented, “Now, he seems to fit the typical misfit profile, cop wannabe, low self-esteem, and s cary resemblance to the guy who whacked Nancy Kerrigan.” Funny enough, the movie version of Richard Jewell in the Clint Eastwood-directed film by the same name (out in December 2019) is being played by Paul Walter Hauser, the same guy who played Shawn Eckhardt, Nancy Kerrigan’s attacker, in the 2018 film

    . The movie looks intense as hell, and I can’t wait to watch it. Thank you to Abrams Press for the ARC via Netgalley!

  • Anna Machan

    Full disclosure, I am from Atlanta and can remember a lot of this but I was only 12 so I couldn’t have known it all. This book was a great read and I learned so much about my city and the events around the Centennial Olympic bombing. I had a hard time putting this book down. Kudos to Mr. Alexander and Mr. Salwen. Best book I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few).

  • Joyce

    My husband has lived in Atlanta all his life.One of the biggest crimes committed here was the Centennial Park Bombing and the aftermath.He has always talked about it..I’ve always wanted to know more about it. This book is an in-depth look into this case.It has lots of background information and facts about this case.If you are a true crime junkie,this book is for you.

    Thankyou Netgalley and Abrams Press for this ARC.

  • Jeff

    “The Suspect” is a comprehensive review of the bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, and the subsequent investigation that involved Richard Jewell, who was a security guard at the bombing site who found the bomb. Jewell was initially praised as a hero, until a story in an Atlanta newspaper named him as a suspect in the bombing, and his life would never be the same. The book does a thorough job in detailing the events of the bombing, as well as the hunt for the true bomber after Jewell

    “The Suspect” is a comprehensive review of the bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, and the subsequent investigation that involved Richard Jewell, who was a security guard at the bombing site who found the bomb. Jewell was initially praised as a hero, until a story in an Atlanta newspaper named him as a suspect in the bombing, and his life would never be the same. The book does a thorough job in detailing the events of the bombing, as well as the hunt for the true bomber after Jewell was cleared. The book is an even-handed narrative of the investigation, and holds no punches assessing blame on all parties relating to the travails of Richard Jewell. This is a great read, with tragic endings for many of the participants, and a sobering look at how journalists and law enforcement tread a fine line between the public's right to know, and a citizen’s right to a presumption of innocence.

    I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jay

    Excellent book that does a great job of presenting background information not just on Jewell, but the entire supporting cast of journalists, FBI agents, and Jewell's friends and family without straying far from the main story. Also does a great job painting a picture of Richard Jewell himself, a good-hearted country boy that was flawed like everyone else but just wanted to help people and be the part of a team.

    One of my favorite nonfiction releases of the year. Can't help but feel bad for a guy

    Excellent book that does a great job of presenting background information not just on Jewell, but the entire supporting cast of journalists, FBI agents, and Jewell's friends and family without straying far from the main story. Also does a great job painting a picture of Richard Jewell himself, a good-hearted country boy that was flawed like everyone else but just wanted to help people and be the part of a team.

    One of my favorite nonfiction releases of the year. Can't help but feel bad for a guy the whole world turned against for the wrong reasons.

  • Jeff

    Simply a fantastic telling of the Olympic bombing in 1996 and how the media's rush to judgment ruined a man's life and legacy. The narration of the audiobook was brilliant and brought the story to life and the pieces unfolded. At the end, you hurt for those who were most affected by the rash decisions made by those in authority and those in the press. It was all about rushing to show the world how quickly we could catch a perpetrator, even if it wasn't the right man. Anyone who is a fan of

    Simply a fantastic telling of the Olympic bombing in 1996 and how the media's rush to judgment ruined a man's life and legacy. The narration of the audiobook was brilliant and brought the story to life and the pieces unfolded. At the end, you hurt for those who were most affected by the rash decisions made by those in authority and those in the press. It was all about rushing to show the world how quickly we could catch a perpetrator, even if it wasn't the right man. Anyone who is a fan of real-life stories will love this.

  • Barbara

    Fast moving and filed with inside stories of Richard Jewell, the FBI, and particularly the media which made the Olympic bombing a circus. I mostly remember disappointment that the park closed for several days. We went to many events, loved living in Atlanta and enjoying the experience. The book is a page turner. You can’t put it down.

  • Katie B

    There were certainly many good moments that came out of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta such as Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies and Kerri Strug competing on an injured ankle and securing a gold medal for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. However, tragedy also struck after a pipe bomb attack in Centennial Park killed one person, Alice Hawthorne, and injured 111 people. A cameraman also died when he suffered a fatal heart attack while running to the

    There were certainly many good moments that came out of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta such as Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies and Kerri Strug competing on an injured ankle and securing a gold medal for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. However, tragedy also struck after a pipe bomb attack in Centennial Park killed one person, Alice Hawthorne, and injured 111 people. A cameraman also died when he suffered a fatal heart attack while running to the scene. Law enforcement rushed to figure out who was responsible for the attack and unfortunately the case turned into a gigantic mess.

    Security guard Richard Jewell was working at Centennial Park the night of the bombing. He was the person who alerted higher ups of a suspicious looking bag that had been left unattended. While he helped secure the area, the bomb went off. Given the thousands of people in the park at the time, Richard was hailed a hero because without him taking action, the casualties could have been significantly greater. But within a few days, the FBI considered him a suspect and word leaked out to the media. Richard's world was turned upside down as the public perception of him quickly changed from hero to villain and he became a frequent punchline for late night comedians. Guess what? He wasn't the bomber.

    I was a teenager back in 1996 and even decades later this still remains one of the more bizarre things I have ever seen played out in the media. First Richard is the man who saved lives with his quick thinking. Then because he fits the lone wolf type profile he turns into a suspect. Oh no, we hate him now! But wait, looks like after law enforcement searches his home and digs more into past, maybe he didn't do it. After some bombings in Alabama, the authorities move on to a new suspect. It's okay people, Richard really is a good guy. We can like him again. The whole sage was just a roller coaster and I can't imagine what it was like to be in Richard's shoes. And that's why I wanted to read this book, as I almost felt like I owed it to him to learn more about what he went through and hopefully get a more well-rounded view of him as a person instead of the more sensationalized version the media put out.

    This is certainly a well-researched book and my guess is there probably will never be another book on the market that takes this close of a look into the case. While some of the key players involved are deceased, the authors were able to piece together the facts of the case by interviewing friends and family, combing through old news articles, watching television interviews, etc. Co-author Kent Alexander was actually involved in the case as he was the U.S. attorney who sent Jewell a letter formally clearing him. This was something negotiated ahead of time with Jewell's lawyers and after it was released it went a long way in shifting the public's perception of him as the man responsible for the bombing.

    I think the authors do a good job in painting the picture of everything going on during this time period. They write about everything leading up to the Games, including the security measures that were put in place. The internet and cable news channels really starting to gain popularity at this time helped contribute to the 24-hour news cycle. Law enforcement needed to find the person or persons responsible for the bombing quickly in case future attacks had been planned. There was a lot going on as it was like the perfect storm and unfortunately for Richard Jewell he got caught up in the middle of it.

    I think each reader will draw their own conclusions about the case. I think most of us can agree that Richard Jewell was put through the ringer which is extremely unfortunate given he was innocent. Now whether or not you can assign blame for what happened is where it becomes more of a grey issue. Was it law enforcement or the media that caused this absolute circus? Both? Should certain individuals take most of the blame like the reporter or the FBI agent? After reading the book, I can't say my opinions on the case have changed but I do think I have now gotten much more of a complete picture. The authors for the most part just present the facts without interjecting their opinions but I was left with the impression they didn't think too highly of a particular FBI agent.

    Definitely recommend reading this book if you want a definitive look at the case. Obviously a big part of the story is Richard Jewell, but the book does go into detail about Eric Rudolph, the man responsible for the Olympic bombing as well as other bombings. Once law enforcement correctly identified him as a suspect, the hunt for him took years before he was successfully apprehended. Chances are you are like me and can never remember the name Eric Rudolph as the media coverage wasn't as extensive with him as it was with Jewell. And how many people out there incorrectly associate Richard Jewell with the bombing and as memories fade, forget he was innocent? Eric Rudolph is responsible for the Centennial Park bombing as well as three other bombings. I think we owe it to Richard to remember that.

    Thank you to Netgalley and Abrams Press giving me an opportunity to read an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

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