American Fire by Monica Hesse

Hesse spends a chapter comparing Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Tonya was a showoff with something to prove and a streak of poetry in her soul. Charlie was a high school dropout, a onetime volunteer fireman, a guy who thought he’d found the love of his life, but who found himself a world of trouble instead. Charlie tries to make ends meet doing auto-body work; Tonya opens a small clothing boutique in the office of Charlie’s shop. In one scene, Charlie and Tonya are sharing a Christmas Day meal at the Royal Farms gas station when they’re joined by a pair of police officers. They all know each other, as everything in this book is small town familiar.
Hesse provides us with psychological assessment on fire and arson along the way. She is interested in the way fire moves, the way it’s set and the way it’s fought, but most of all in the power it has over the mind: Why do we like to see things burn? By the time the culprits are caught, a squadron of arsonist profilers has descended on Accomack County, and their insights form some of the most interesting portions of this book.This is an intriguing story of back woods America, deprivation, crime, tainted love and psychosis. It’s mostly drawn from interviews and has a gritty real life feel to it.
Check if this contemporary American reportage is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at Home | South Lanarkshire Libraries (
288 pages in Liveright

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1631490514

Monica Hesse

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