If you’re either a king or a kook, you’re not going to make it in this world of security clearances.

Thomas Sarnicola decided to create an anthology of stories from his experience in the fact finding process as a background investigator, and his novel No Kings, No Kooks, invites the reader into the world of security clearance investigations for the federal government and military.

For this episode of ClearedCast, I was joined by Greg Stuart who is a contributor at news.clearancejobs.com.

No Kings, No Kooks is a fascinating book that Greg was able to read in a day – probably because it reminded him of when he obtained his first security clearance in 1999.

The book shows a look behind the curtains of what the security clearance process entails. Sarnicola’s motivation behind writing the book wasn’t cut and dry: he claims he’s not a writer or scholar, but as he was approaching retirement, he was encouraged by family to share some of the more interesting cases he encountered. His journey to becoming an investigator was not the norm either: he was a regional director for fundraising in the medical research field, and before that a teacher. After 9/11, he found himself unemployed as donations plummeted. However, his twin brother was a special agent, and the rest is history.

So, let’s start with the title. Where does “No kings, no kooks” come from? The phrase refers to two types of individuals who just wouldn’t do well in the background investigating world.

Being Italian-American, his father used to regularly refer to someone he didn’t care for as a ‘mamaluke’: an Italian slang word, for someone who does something dumb, stupid, silly, or foolish. This translates to a ‘kook’ in English.

Sarnicola tells us that kings won’t last either in this field (ie, former police entering this field, but not having as much authority as an investigator compared to their former law enforcement days).

Why should young folks be mindful of their actions?

People feel they’ve been put through the wringer during a background investigation. Pre-professional career, whether that’s in high school or college, you might not imagine yourself applying for security clearance and may do or post some questionable things online. Background investigators (or the fact finders) may stumble upon these things and reference them while going through your security clearance background investigation. The book is not only a reflection of his coming of age but describes some of his more interesting security clearance cases he investigated and the people he encountered along the way.

What advice would you give someone who wants to enter this field?

If you want to serve your country, being a security clearance background investigator is a great way. A lot of agents use it as a stepping stone – and if you enter the field young enough, there is room for career advancement and meeting some great contacts. All in all, expect to be surprised.

Buy your copy of No Kings, No Kooks today.

From a working-class Italian American family, Sarnicola was born in the Bronx, New York, receiving BA from the University of Redlands, and an MA from the University of San Francisco. He retired as a Special Agent for the DoD and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸