On Fire

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

ON FIRE finds Larry Brown taking the reader into his confidence—sharing his feelings and his activities as a firefighter for seventeen years in the South. Brown describes the pleasure of drinking a beer with the same intensity as he describes the challenge of saving a young woman crushed and pinned under a truck in a terrible vehicle accident. The weight of serious and often tragic actions are interspersed between Brown’s trivial activities and daily thoughts.

The first pages of ON FIRE indicate the personal, intimate nature of Brown’s musings. Early unnamed chapters are only a page long, yet they lead into sleepless nights, inventories of objects in the fire room, an overriding invasion of fear permeating room and writer. In the initial chapters, Brown takes the reader into a “Code Red” fire. Providing firsthand descriptions of the firefighters’ taut excitement and fear nurtured by adrenalin and success, Brown also chooses to conclude these chapters with passages that are simple and teeming with poignancy. Brown never allows the reader to forget that life and death are both at play in his chosen career.

If Larry Brown were to write exclusively about winning and losing at terrible fire sites and accidents, readers would all rush to be honorary firemen. Nevertheless, he also shares some lovely fishing and deer hunting experiences, dear relationships with pets, some funny in-jokes among his firefighting pals. When readers close the book, they have done more than simply learn about Larry Brown, firefighter, author, and family man. They have acquired a deep respect for the work firefighters do, having experienced the tense fear and adrenalin rushes these men need to incorporate into their passionate lives.