Fire Lover: A True Story Hardcover – Apr 18 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Returning to print after a six-year hiatus, former LAPD detective sergeant and bestselling author Wambaugh (The Onion Field, etc.) focuses on firefighters rather than his usual police beat. It's a surprising switch, but Wambaugh's regular readers will not be disappointed, since sparks fly throughout this potent probe into the life of arson investigator John Leonard Orr. Fascinated by fires in his L.A. childhood, Orr learned fire fighting in the air force. An eccentric loner with few friends and a womanizer with a string of failed marriages, he was rejected by the LAPD and LAFD. In 1974 he joined the Glendale Fire Department, where his gun-toting, crime-crusading capers earned him the label "cop wanna-be" from both police and firemen. Rising in the ranks, Orr became well-known as an arson sleuth. He had a sixth sense for tracking pyros, but there was one serial arsonist, responsible for the deaths of four, who remained elusive. In 1990, during the worst fire in Glendale's history, some noted that Orr's behavior "seemed very peculiar." That same year, Orr was appointed fire captain and began writing a "fact-based novel" about a serial arsonist who turns out to be a firefighter and in it Orr revealed certain facts about the unsolved arson case that he couldn't have known through his work. Was Orr the serial arsonist? Wambaugh recreates these events for a suspenseful, adrenaline-rush account of what one profiler dubbed "probably the most prolific American arsonist" of the 20th century.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A tale of two men a respected fire chief and a prolific arsonist who turned out to be one and the same.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The book tells the story of John Leonard Orr. Orr was a frustrated individual, from a split household, who tried to become a policeman and failed, and wound up becoming a firefighter, both in the Air Force and then in the city of Glendale here in Southern California. He rose to become Glendale's senior arson investigator, actually teaching classes that other arson investigators, even Federal ones, attended. He was considered one of the leading authorities on arson fires and arsonists in California. Then suspicion fell on him and his activities, and he was arrested and accused of being an arsonist himself. The accusation was followed by a pair of trials.
Now I live in Montrose (yards from the border of the city of Glendale) and used to actually live in Glendale, so it was interesting to read about the locale and the people of my new home (I've lived here for five years). Everything's reasonably well-recreated, though I didn't think Glendale was made that unique compared with other Southern California cities. Orr comes across as something of a nerd, a doofus who's always trying to fit in while never quite making it, and always cheating on the current wife with the prospective one, while paying child support to the ex.
Wambaugh's writing style is interesting, in that he uses a lot of slang and emphasis to show what he means, and has a very conversational style. It'd be interesting to hear Ken Howard read this book: it reads as if it would sound better than it looks on the page.Read more ›
Wambaugh's narrative is a little too detailed in recalling the trials, especially the long drawn out penalty phase of the murder trial (perhaps attempting to make it as excruciating for us as it was for the jury); and his early attempt at not disclosing Orr's culpability (for those very few readers who may not have heard of the case) came up a little short as his asides made it clear that Orr was definitely one very sick puppy. Otherwise this is a masterful piece of true crime journalism by someone who has the background to understand the police and detective work involved, someone who has done the extensive research necessary to give us a comprehensive account, and someone with the narrative and organizational skills to produce a compelling volume.
But Wambaugh also gives us a detailed psychological profile of John Orr. He does not use the word "pyromaniac" in his depiction.Read more ›
and he is a master at the police procedural. Unhappily, this
entry is merely o.k., and the tenseness and plotting are not up
to his usual quite high standard.
The story is about a fire fighter who turns out to have been
setting fires himself, and it concerns the clues that various
law-enforcement men and a task force slowly uncover before
finally beginning to focus on the Glendale, CA arson investigator.
The most interesting part of the story is Wambaugh's explanation
of the different mind-set of the two types of people involved:
cops and firefighters, and how those differences affect their
view of the crime and possible suspects. Cops and firefighters
view the world quite differently, as does the world view them
in dissimilar lights.
And Wambaugh understands these differences.
In addition, he presents a couple of firefighters who have
uneasy feelings about the crimes and how the cops are responding
to them, and he explores how these two men have to work so
hard to try to convince the cops they might be missing something.
This is an interesting story, but the tension and drama just
are not there. The crimes took place over a period of many
years, and most of them were low-key, and we have to factor in
the fact that the defendant/criminal kept insisting, even after
he plead guilty to some of them, that he was not really guilty.
In addition, the prosecutors never required the guy to explain
his motivations or reasoning, and the system never developed
a coherent theory of why the defendant behaved as he did, even
though he was considered one of the most active serial-arsonists
in American history.
So the lack of great drama and tension in the story may not be
the result of Wambaugh at all; maybe the great, exciting story
we expected was just never there at all.
Most recent customer reviews
I think he could have written in 200 words or less that he hated John Orr, thinks cops are better than firemen, and thinks prosecutors should always have the upper hand. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2003
This is the first Wambaugh book that I've read. I've heard lots of good things about his books. I work in law enforcement and have enjoyed other true crime books written by... Read morePublished on Dec 19 2003
Fire Lover has a depressing and sad beginning, but later on, turns into a wonderful novel worth reading. Mr. Read morePublished on July 15 2003
Fire Lover is the story of arsonist John Orr and the long investigation and prosecution it took to bring him to justice. Read morePublished on June 8 2003 by Lisa Bahrami
I have enjoyed Wambaugh's other true crime books, and watched for this one to go on the Best Seller lists. When it didn't, I decided to buy it anyway.....And I wish I hadn't. Read morePublished on Nov. 30 2002
As has been true with Wambaugh's other non-fiction books, the story is captivating and intense. The Wambaugh fan is treated to more of the author's earthy prose. Read morePublished on Oct. 3 2002 by Tony Sanchez
Until Fire Lover, it had been too long since Wambaugh presented us with a new book. If you liked his other stories, you will like this one, too. Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2002 by Steven L. Turner
Whether you liked Fire Lover or not you won't want to miss reading 'Points of Origin...playing with fire' the book written by the criminal profiled in Fire Lover. Read morePublished on July 31 2002 by clarifier