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An Undercover World

July 27, 2017
by Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

Advice to aspiring writers: write what you know.

Dana Ridenour took that advice and ran with it in her first novel "Behind the Mask." She is now unveiling her second novel, "Beyond the Cabin," and she is coming to Emmetsburg this Friday to do just that.

As a reader, you can feel the excitement of an undercover operation in "Behind the Mask." Dana takes her fictional undercover FBI agent into the world of vegan animal rights extremists. We follow a first year college student and watch as the decisions she makes change her life completely. The student participates in animal rights demonstrations and above ground activities that quickly escalate to underground activities, which puts her in jeopardy with the law.

We learn a lot about the FBI and the world of undercover agents in just the first 30 pages. It takes a tough person to make it through FBI undercover certification: "As an agent you spend years learning how to be an FBI?agent. Undercover school has to deprogram all those behaviors and mannerisms out of the agent since most streetwise criminals can spot a cop a mile away."

She also writes about the network of agents who are there to protect the undercover agent: "Speaking from personal experience, a good contact agent can save your life - or - at a minimum, your sanity. The contact agent is your lifeline. He or she is your tether to the real world."

This is the stuff that makes a good novel. This is also the life of real FBI?agents Dana Ridenour and Bill Endorf.

Reading Dana's biography, it is interesting to note that as a member of the FBI's Evidence Response Team, she and her team traveled to New York City in response to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. It was after that she attended and passed the FBI's Undercover School.

Bill Endorf grew up in Emmetsburg. I got to know him as a high school athlete. He left the community, but returned after college to work at Cylinder State Bank for five years in the 1980s, before training as an FBI agent.

Through his years with the FBI, Bill was assigned to the Violent Crime squad, on the SWAT team. Another assignment took him to New Jersey where he worked Organized Crime, and later on the Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force. In the late 1990s he attended the FBI's Undercover School.

Bill was assigned to International Terrorism that took him to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. That is where he met Dana. Their work eventually took them to an undercover operation in California where the posed as Dana's boyfriend. As Bill points out, "This is about the only thing that we told our subjects that was true."

He added, "The majority of FBI undercover operations are on a part-time basis where you still work cases but go undercover for meets with the subjects, i.e. drug buys, illegal weapon buys, etc. However, due to the sensitive nature of Domestic Terrorism and the intelligence of our subjects, we were undercover using assumed names and identities 24-7. We got in so deep, our subjects invited us to travel with them overseas to an anarchist camp." There is certainly more to that story.

Dana's presentation at The Shores this Friday morning should be fascinating. How often do you have the opportunity to visit with a retired FBI agent, let alone two!?Hope to see all of you readers at The Shores at 10 a.m.



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