Fire Lover

Fire Lover

A True Story

Book - 2002
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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.

Publisher: New York : William Morrow, c2002.
ISBN: 9780060095277
Characteristics: viii, 338 pages ;,24 cm.


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Jun 28, 2009

John Orr bagged his first pyromaniac when a landlord reported a series of small fires in an apartment complex. On the last one a “bystander” shouted a warning to residents and escorted some of them out before the engine company arrived. He was the same guy who had recently spotted a purse snatching and captured the thief after a foot pursuit. John immediately suspected the bystander hero. He wrote, “This guy sounded like me. He even looked like me right down to the mustache.” Then the hero was a bystander once too often and tried fighting a fire with a garden hose, but got overcome by smoke and ended up in an ER with an IV in his arm. He had to give his address of his employer for the hospital records, and he did, but the address belonged to the Glendale Police Department, a clue to the hospital staff the guy might just be a head case.

Jun 28, 2009

…(John Orr) thought that pyros were interesting. He learned that they make up less than 5 percent of arson suspects and that typically they were loners. John wrote: “the fire becomes a friend they can relate to. Their fires bring attention, friends, admiration as heroes, and self-esteem. Like a drug addict, one good score leads to the desire for another."


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Jun 28, 2009

This book is about the tragically pathetic true story of John Leonard Orr who was an arson investigator who actually set fires.

This chronicling case study is in depth and insightful but sometimes I don’t care for the author’s colloquialisms, crass storytelling and condescension. A fine example of the author’s writing style would this gem: “asking John Orr to chill out and cut the cop capers was like asking Islamic Jihad just to kick back and milk goats.” But what can you expect from a former LAPD Detective; he’s certainly not a crime journalist and definitely not Truman Capote.

All in all, it is interesting to lock at the sad life of John Orr and try to understand why he did what he did.

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