Though the novelty of pyromaniac firefighters might have disappeared entirely in the wake of the recent forest fires that raged in Arizona and Colorado, no one can tell a rogue cop or rogue firefighter story like Joseph Wambaugh can. Wambaugh, a former detective sergeant with the LAPD, creator of the Ď70ís TV series Police Story, and author of both masterful non-fiction (The Onion Field; Lines and Shadows) and hilarious fiction (The Choirboys; The Black Marble; The Glitter Dome), once again proves that fact is definitely much more twisted, entertaining, and incomprehensible than fiction.
I let my bias show in every book review I write. I mean, why tell someone all the wrong reasons to read a book, anyhow? But I cannot help but confess my adoration for Joseph Wambaughís writing. He has a gift for dialogue and a collection of human oddities that Dickens would have killed for. He has the detectiveís eye for perceiving the one incongruous element in any given context that, at once, proves everything and explains nothing. His novels are irresistible dark comedies that often serve as perfectly designed torture chambers for human dignity and as imperfectly controlled asylums for nihilists and dreamers, alike.
Here, with Fire Lover, the author has found the perfect embodiment of all things Wambovian. John Orr, a lifetime cop wannabee who can never come to terms with having failed the psychological portion of the LAPD entrance examination, eventually becomes one of the best-known and most-respected arson investigators in southern California.
But there is one serial arsonist he canít catch: a sicko arson investigator that starts fires in department stores that are filled with people, in order to receive sexual gratification and self-esteem, as well as to inspire him to write a best-selling fact-based novel about his exploits.
Yes. Thatís right. And nobody can tell his story like a former LAPD investigator who writes best-selling fact-based novels.
There. I did it. I didnít use one combustion metaphor or fire simile throughout this whole review, did you notice? Iíll bet that none of the twenty-two people out there who have ever read my reviews thought I could pull it off.