Wired… an FBI Story: The Heroic Journey of Tommy Dye, from FBI Informant to Witness Protection, by Glenn Painter, is all about a simple request posed by the FBI to an incarcerated petty criminal named Tommy Dye. Dye was serving his sentence within one of the most dangerous prisons situated within the nation’s perimeter. Notwithstanding the sophisticated investigative tools idiosyncratic of the FBI bureaucracy, they ran against a brick wall when it came to getting that crucial bit of information from former corrupt Chicago cop Steve Manning–a confession. So what was their Plan B? To accost a fellow convict–that was Dye who now entered the equation. Manning was arrested for the murder of a trucking business owner.
How would that confession be obtained via a wire strapped to Dye’s thigh travel from this incarcerated prisoner to the office building housing the FBI? Prison– not the safest place to agree to assume the role of FBI informant. The discovery of that wire could have a devastating impact on its wearer. Under the cloak of secrecy Dye embarked on an amiable relationship with Manning and thereupon recorded six hours of conversation. As a reward for this partnership his 14- year sentence for theft and firearms was split in half. As Dye said, “Based on the length the feds were willing to go to get him off the street for good I figured there could be a huge reward if I could keep from getting chopped into pieces.”
Painter told me during our interview on my web-based radio show Writers’ Café how all this started. Dye had an affair with a female sheriff and when it got out of hand, he approached Internal Affairs and then the FBI recruited him.
The author brings us into a room where we hear the secret conversations about a clandestine operation between two unlikely sets of people–a prisoner and the FBI and learn about the intricacies of wearing and concealing a wire and ultimately transporting that conversation into the hands of the FBI.
The story of a convict turned FBI snitch is told from copious notes written in longhand — no computer behind bars where convicts can pen their memoirs. He wanted the world to know his story. With pages and pages bursting at the seams with murder, women, FBI, drugs, suspense, court testimony, life in prison, jail snitch, witness protection, corrupt cop we wonder is it real or simply created from the creative imagination of an author–readers it is real.
As Dye asked the FBI, “am I supposed to steer the conversation toward any certain topic?”
“Just let him go and see what happens,” is their response. After brainstorming with his attorney who issued a sobering warning–the prison guards will put a price on his head if this pact is discovered he agreed to this partnership. He was to obey stringent instructions whereby these tapes will be picked up at regular time intervals.
This is a remarkable saga about a prisoner who wants the world to know about an FBI snitch who risked life and limb in the process. As Painter said, “He [Manning] is the only cop in American history to ever get sentenced to death.”
Wired An FBI Story by Glenn Painter
Marilyn Silverman is a writer, assistant editor of Caribbean American Weekly, host of Writers Cafe Radio Show, and Panelist (How to market and promote your book: Inaugural Black Book Expo, New York).