"More horrifying because it is true"
As a child in Los Angeles, John Orr revered firefighters
watching them as if he was sitting in front of a TV set.
He relished the way the firefighter risked his or her life
in the line of duty. As a young adult, John joined the
Glendale, California Fire Department and quickly became one
of the best. Over time, he became a fire captain and
eventually an arson investigator highly regarded by his
peers as one of the foremost experts.
John also moonlighted as an arsonist who remained
undetectable for years and whose fires killed four people
and caused millions of dollars in damage. When he finally
made an error and was caught, the entire firefighting
community refused to believe that one of their heroes could
be a serial arsonist.
The hardest thing about this true-life crime biography is
that it is true crime caused by someone whose dangerous
occupation most people respect even more so after 9/11. So
chilling is this account this reviewer keeps wanting to
paraphrase an old horror movie ad that it's only a book.
However, Joseph Wambaugh brings the fiery duality of his
subject vividly alive so that the reader observes a
criminal considered by the FBI as "the most prolific
American arsonist of the twentieth century". Fans of true
crime will want to read this account that never slows down
as FIRE LOVER: A TRUE STORY is Mr. Wambaugh at his finest.
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted April 22, 2002
From master crime writer Joseph Wambaugh, the acclaimed
author of such classics as The Onion Field and The
Choirboys, comes the extraordinary true story of a
firefighter who may have been, according to U.S. government
profilers, "the most prolific American arsonist of the
twentieth century."Growing up in Los Angeles, John Orr
would watch in awe as firefighters scrambled to put out
blazes with seeming disregard for their own lives. One day
he would become a fireman himself, and a good one. As a
member of the Glendale Fire Department, he rose through the
ranks, eventually becoming a fire captain and one of
southern California's best-known and most-respected arson
investigators, as well as a writer of firefighting articles
and finally of a fact-based novel. But there was another,
unseen life, one that included many women, a need for risk,
and a hunger for recognition.While Orr busted a string of
petty arsonists, there was one serial criminal he could not
track down. The fire lover used the same simple yet
devastating device and was unerring in his execution. His
lethal handiwork led to the death of four innocent people
and countless millions of dollars worth of property damage.
Homes, retail stores during business hours, fields of dry
brush in stifling summer heat -- little was safe from his
obsession to see them burn.But after years of terror and
destruction, he would make a mistake. He would leave behind
a precious clue that investigators would use to lead them
to the true identity of the fire lover, to the shock and
disbelief of the firefighting community.Chilling, colorful,
and vivid, Fire Lover is Joseph Wambaugh at his best. He
explores the making of a deviant personality, the
fascinating intricacies of fire science, the uneasy
relationship between firefighting and law-enforcement
communities, and a legal system gone haywire.Based on his
trademark meticulous research, interviews, case records,
and thousands of pages of court transcripts, Wambaugh
fashions a powerful narrative. You will never look at fire
the same way again.