As I am going over the outline for my next novel, I am thinking about creating a character who is a soon-to-be-retired FBI agent.
I am, however, woefully ignorant out what life is like for someone in that agency approaching 57, the mandatory retirement age. How do they phase you out of a job like that? Do they taper down your work load so that when you turn retirement age, you’re not embroiled in a high-profile case? What if you’re a key point of authority and information in an anti-terrorist operation, or you’re hot on the trail of a serial killer. How does the FBI make sure this isn’t the case? What’s the difference between a special agent and a special-agent-in-charge? Where do I find this information?
I’m sure if I called the local office of the FBI I would get some grey suit who would dodge my questions, and if he or she did provide answers, they would be peppered with so much jargon and bureaucratic crap that I might as well not ask them.
I was stumbling around, asking some of my writer friends if they knew of any sources. I wasn’t getting much in the way of results. But—behold the internet, and better than that—Google.
I typed in “former FBI agents.” The first thing I got was a spate of private investigation agencies operated by former FBI agents. A possibility, but these folks are in business to make money. They don’t want spend time giving away free information to a writer.
But two or three entries down, I struck gold: The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. Their website offers all sorts of information about the agency, their culture and practices, and even articles about what to do after retirement.
As a writer friend of mine said, "Who knew?!"
The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI is a nationwide body, but it has local chapters, the closest one to me being in Palm Desert, which is in the Palm Springs area. This makes sense. There is a lot of money in Palm Springs, and it is a popular retirement area.
You would think that checking on the internet would be a no-brainer, but it didn’t occur to me that a body such as the Former Special Agents of the FBI would exist. I should have known better. I used to work for a trade association and I am well aware that there is an association or affinity group for just about anything you can envision. The FBI is no different.
I called the chair of the chapter. It was a conversation you’d would expect to have with a former FBI agent. She was guarded, a little suspicious. She didn’t commit to much, but she did say she would ask around at the next chapter meeting. I wanted to ask her for an email address, but I sensed that might be pushing it. I’ll prepare a preliminary list of questions and call her back, offering to email them to her. I’ll let you know about my success.
See ya’ later.