American Fire

American Fire

Love, Arson, and Life in A Vanishing Land

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
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Recommended Summer reading by TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Real Simple, and Elle. A breathtaking feat of reportage, American Fire combines procedural with love story, redefining American tragedy for our time. The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn't stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate-there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning. The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie's confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn't lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other's inspiration and escape...until they weren't. Though it's hard to believe today, one hundred years ago Accomack was the richest rural county in the nation. Slowly it's been drained of its industry-agriculture-as well as its wealth and population. In an already remote region, limited employment options offer little in the way of opportunity. A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. Hesse brings to life the Eastern Shore and its inhabitants, battling a punishing economy and increasingly terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. The result evokes the soul of rural America-a land half gutted before the fires even began.
Publisher: 2017.
ISBN: 9781631490521
Branch Call Number: eBook Overdrive
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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AL_PAMELAH Jan 16, 2018

Ever wonder why people set fires? In the case of the 80 fires set in 5 months in Accomack County, Virginia, love might have had something to do with it. An interesting look at life on the rural Eastern Shore, and why people do what they really know they shouldn't.

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pamelah1
Jan 16, 2018

Ever wonder why people set fires? In the case of the 80 fires set in 5 months in Accomack County, Virginia, love might have had something to do with it. An interesting look at life on the rural Eastern Shore, and why people do what they really know they shouldn't.

LPL_LizS Nov 03, 2017

A fascinating look into the daily lives of citizens of rural Accomack County, Virginia who are trying to deal with a devastating string of crimes. Hesse captures the arson in great journalistic detail, weaving a lot of information into a compelling narrative. These fires illuminate the deep struggles of a small community with a dying economy, where everyone is just looking for a better life.

t
topekasue
Oct 31, 2017

Reads as one would expect since it's a journalist's expanded writings of a featured crime story. Well-told tale of a Virginia county forced to adjust life to a never-ending series of arson fires that take a tremendous toll on all its residents, including the arsonists.

m
MplsTA
Oct 22, 2017

The story isn't just about the many fires but the person(s) responsible for setting them. What is most amazing is the "why". It's a twisted and sad story but compelling.

Cynthia_N Aug 23, 2017

It was astonishing to read how many fires were set before the culprits were caught. There were people camping at abandoned home sites and cameras set up but it still took months before they were able to catch the guilty parties. Good read!

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