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Protecting the Presidential Candidates (Hardback)

From JFK To Biden

Military > Frontline Books Military > Pre-WWI > American History P&S History > Social Science & Culture > International Relations & Foreign Policy P&S History > Social Science & Culture > Politics

By Mel Ayton
Frontline Books
Pages: 376
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399014083
Published: 20th October 2021



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Protecting the Presidential Candidates is the first book of its kind to examine how presidents and presidential candidates were protected during the presidential election cycles – from JFK to Biden. It is also the first book of its kind to tell the story of the role of state troopers and private bodyguards in protecting presidential candidates.

Protection for candidates changed and evolved from the free-wheeling style of the 1950s and early 1960s, which afforded presidential candidates little or no protection, to the growth of bodyguard personnel, increased intelligence facilities and state of the art technology employed today to keep the candidates safe. Presidential candidates relish connecting with the public and it has given greater visibility to the bodyguards who are willing to place themselves between a presidential candidate and a would-be attacker.

In the milieu in which the Secret Service operates, bodyguards have witnessed the terrors of election campaigns when presidential candidates have waded into crowds to shake hands with their supporters, rode in open-top cars, and made sudden but risky changes to their schedules – oblivious to the fact that in every campaign there have been people stalking candidates with ill intent.

Many stories revealed in Protecting the Presidential Candidates have remained largely hidden from the public; some buried in newspaper archives and others in oral histories, presidential libraries or official government documents. The author draws on numerous sources, including FBI files, presidential biographies, vice presidential biographies, civilian bodyguard memoirs, Secret Service agent memoirs, White House staff memoirs and more so that these stories can now be told.

The book also allows readers to gain an insight into the personal as well as professional relationships between the candidate and the bodyguards who protected them. Some candidates were so trusting of their bodyguards they embraced them as part of an ‘inner circle’ of advisers. Bodyguards have also witnessed embarrassing moments in a candidate’s campaign and how intrusive they have been at the most delicate of moments. ‘The president’s day is your day,’ one agent said. 'Nobody sees the president the way an agent does.'

As featured in the article:


Crime Magazine

"...a solid account of various trials and tribulations that presidential candidates and presidents deal with throughout their campaigns and of service to country."

American Intelligence Journal, Volume 39, No. 1, 2022

An often-overlooked aspect of counterterrorism academic studies is the tactical challenge of protecting public figures from terrorist attacks. This book fills the gap with its fascinating and detailed account of how U.S. Presidents and, during presidential election cycles, presidential candidates, are protected by their various types of protective security details, such as the U.S. Secret Service. The book’s coverage begins with John F. Kennedy’s administration and ends with President Joe Biden’s, including the violent takeover by far-right-wing supporters of former President Donald Trump of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. The book is filled with numerous protective detail insights that are useful to counterterrorism studies, such as the various security roles by the U.S. Secret Service, which the author describes as “physical protection which includes guarding the home, coverage of the office and examination of vehicles and aeroplanes. Agents take control of the candidate’s schedules, travel arrangements and checking out the venues where a candidate is due to speak. The
venue is checked for bombs and possible evacuation routes are identified should an incident occur” (p. 10). The author adds that the Secret Service agents “work in three different perimeters: an inner perimeter, a middle perimeter and an outer perimeter” (p. 11). Also of interest is the author’s profiling of assassins of presidents as
unemployed men who underwent a “period of downward spiral in their lives,” who had little emotional contact with women, were “loveless; almost all had some form of personality disorder,” and were motivated to carry out their assassination plot against a public figure “to achieve notoriety or fame,” as well as, in some cases, “to avenge a perceived wrong…” (p. 19). The author, a former college lecturer, is a veteran author of several books and television documentaries in the United Kingdom and the U.S. on subjects such as assassins of U.S. Presidents. He lives in Durham, England.

Joshua Sinai, Perspectives on Terrorism Journal, February 2022

Review as featured in:

Available at:

Chris Hallam's World View

A book in many ways is a book about ‘what ifs’ and mysteries, the book goes into a number of assassination attempts on various presidents and how this has shaped the work and role of the Secret Service. In a way, it’s a little odd in that the title of US President is held with such revere by the Secret Service and the American people as a whole, in many ways in which British people would see the Queen, even more so than a prime minister. The author has taken stories, evidence and workings gleaned from various government documents, biographies and biographies from those staff that have done the actual job of protecting the president. This is good because being able to use information from these adds credence to the book rather than just a book of stories that may not have been proved correct. This is a very good read indeed and would be aimed more at those interested in presidential history.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

The Secret Service: The deadly serious business of protecting the President

The Express 06/12/21

Highlight: 'The book shares very intimate details of assassination attempts on candidates, which makes for a very interesting read.'

Emily Correia, Goodreads

Highlight: 'A full and revealing account of a fascinating subject.'

Full review available at: https://www.netgalley.co.uk/book/234698/review/281699

Chris H., NetGalley

Featured in 'How George W Bush almost got hit by a grenade and cat-obsessed assassin wanted to kill Reagan: Secret history of Presidential assassination attempts revealed'

Full article available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2603430/How-W-Bush-got-hit-grenade-agent-shot-Johnson-SAME-day-Kennedy-cat-obsessed-assassin-The-secret-attempts-kill-President-revealed.html


This was really interesting and I found it very informative. There was a lot I did not know even of current events.

I really recommend this and will be getting it for my husband for Christmas.

NetGalley, Caroline Wright

There are a handful of investigative historians, like author Mel Ayton, who are best known for their unique insights into American history. What is particularly remarkable about Ayton is that he is a British scholar who is widely admired and respected as one of the top experts in the world on the protection of U.S. presidential candidates. His latest work, Protecting the Presidential Candidates: From JFK to Biden, is the third in his wonderfully researched and brilliantly written series of books about this fascinating subject. And it is Ayton’s best and most important work to date.

Dan E. Moldea, author of The Hoffa Wars and The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy

With Protecting the Presidential Candidates, Mel Ayton takes a deep dive into the intersection between law enforcement and politics. Through meticulous research and compelling, character-driven stories, Ayton shows us that both running for President of the United States, and protecting those who do, are among the riskiest and most unpredictable pursuits in modern American life. An important contribution to the literature of the Secret Service and presidential politics.

John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, Authors of Mindhunter and The Killer’s Shadow

The book shares very intimate details of assassination attempts on candidates, which makes for a very interesting read. It also shows how the secret service has evolved over the last more than half century to respond to increasing threats of violence.

Ayton shares a good mix of both positive and negative accounts of all of the presidential candidates, including some light hearted stories about those candidates who wanted to invite their teams to dinner or learn about their families. One warning though, for any people who are devout fans of Hillary, you may not like the chapter dedicated to the Clintons. Well within his right, Ayton shares accounts from the secret service that don’t do a lot of justice to the former president and First Lady.

I think Ayton does a really wonderful job sharing with the world what it’s like to be a secret service agent in charge of protecting people who experience violent threats every single day. This is definitely worth a read, if you’re interested in politics.

NetGalley, Alexis Forgit

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic what can I say, now downloading the JFK assassination dispelling the myths. Mel you have a forever fan in me!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

With Protecting the Presidential Candidates, Mel Ayton takes a deep dive into the intersection between law enforcement and politics. Through meticulous research and compelling, character-driven stories, Ayton shows us that both running for President of the United States, and protecting those who do, are among the riskiest and most unpredictable pursuits in modern American life. An important contribution to the literature of the Secret Service and presidential politics.

-- John Douglas and Mark Olshaker,, Authors of Mindhunter and The Killer’s Shadow

Olivia Camozzi-Jones

About Mel Ayton

MEL AYTON has a master’s degree in history from Durham University and is a former US Fulbright Teacher, deputy principal and college lecturer. He is the author of numerous books and articles and has worked as a historical consultant for the BBC, NBC News, National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Times Channel. Ayton’s books and articles have received praise from numerous media outlets including Fox News, USA TodayThe New York Post and Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as well as UK newspapers including The GuardianThe Daily Mail and The Daily Express. His book, The Forgotten Terrorist – Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, was acclaimed by Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz who wrote a Foreword to the second edition of the book published in 2019.

Perfect Partner

The Kennedy Assassinations JFK and Bobby Kennedy - Debunking The Conspiracy Theories (Hardback)

Few events have been the subject of more conspiracy theories than the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers. Indeed, a great many people consider that there were other individuals than Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan involved in both murders. Was a shot fired from Dealey Plaza’s grassy knoll? Why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald? Was it the CIA, the Soviets, Cuban nationalists or the Mafia that arranged John Kennedy’s assassination? Was Robert Kennedy shot from in front and behind, and who had the most to gain from his death? These are just a few of the questions that have been put forward…

By Mel Ayton

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