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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Fire Lover: A True Story

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

    Very good nonfiction book about a despicable man, John Orr. A man who sets fires. A serial arsonist. On the 10th of October 1984 in South Pasadena, California USA this man set a fire in a retail store, during business hours, that killed innocent men, women, and children. Thankfully, he was caught. I could go into a lot of detail, but I won't. I'll let you read it all for yourself. I found this book to be a real page-turner. Even the pages relating to the trial evidence were masterfully handled by Very good nonfiction book about a despicable man, John Orr. A man who sets fires. A serial arsonist. On the 10th of October 1984 in South Pasadena, California USA this man set a fire in a retail store, during business hours, that killed innocent men, women, and children. Thankfully, he was caught. I could go into a lot of detail, but I won't. I'll let you read it all for yourself. I found this book to be a real page-turner. Even the pages relating to the trial evidence were masterfully handled by the author, Joseph Wambaugh, to keep the reader interested ... which isn't always the case, unfortunately. 4 Stars = It touched my heart, and/or gave me much food for thought.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Alan

    I found the first two thirds of this true crime story to be a page turner. I’ve never read a true crime book about a serial arsonist, let alone a serial arsonist who is the lead arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department in Southern California —possibly the most prolific arsonist of all time. He wrote numerous articles about arson investigation and taught classes and was widely considered an expert. I’ve read news stories about volunteer firefighters starting forest fires in part to cre I found the first two thirds of this true crime story to be a page turner. I’ve never read a true crime book about a serial arsonist, let alone a serial arsonist who is the lead arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department in Southern California —possibly the most prolific arsonist of all time. He wrote numerous articles about arson investigation and taught classes and was widely considered an expert. I’ve read news stories about volunteer firefighters starting forest fires in part to create work for themselves during the summer months, but this story was intriguing. I already knew how difficult it is to prove arson and to link that arson to a specific person, but all the courtroom stuff grew a little tedious. It was interesting that Wambaugh for the most part took an impartial journalistic view of imparting the details that were uncovered and then every now and then he’d inject his opinion on which lawyer did a good job with his or her argument or a bad one. It was also frustrating that John Orr refuses to accept guilt for any of it. What helped the lawyers for his case was a novel he wrote called Point of Origin, which was later made into a movie starring Ray Liotta. The story is about two firefighters, a good one and one an arsonist. If Orr would accept blame, psychologists and others would be able to study the mind of a serial arsonist and possibly gain insights as to the triggers (and possible treatment). I was interested in this book because I’m interested in firefighters’ jobs in general, but I felt Wambaugh was only able to guess at what made Orr do the things he did, both with the women in his life and with his career. If you’re interested in this type of true crime, you’d like it; otherwise, I’d find another book to spend your time on. For more of my reviews, please visit: http://theresaalan.net/blog

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Well you can tell this all happened before life with the net. I have never heard of the horrific tale of John Orr. It read like a Mickey Haller tale or a John Grisham law story. The Joseph Wambaugh humor is missing but then there is nothing humorous about this factual book. I am glad I read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike Rogers

    An interesting story about a Californian fire investigator who was also a prolific serial arsonist. The book looks at the background of the arsonist, the investigation and the court case in about equal measures. While the story itself was interesting I didn't find it particularly well told. It was mostly told from a slightly distant journalistic point of view but every now and again the author would interject with a sarcastic comment, jibe or observation that felt jarring in the context. There An interesting story about a Californian fire investigator who was also a prolific serial arsonist. The book looks at the background of the arsonist, the investigation and the court case in about equal measures. While the story itself was interesting I didn't find it particularly well told. It was mostly told from a slightly distant journalistic point of view but every now and again the author would interject with a sarcastic comment, jibe or observation that felt jarring in the context. There was little real analysis of the psychology of serial arsonists and the author relied almost entirely on the court proceedings to speak for themselves. I'm glad I read it, but I thought it could have been better written.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark Stevens

    Surreal. “Fire Lover” is a true crime recounting of one of the most notorious arsonists in Los Angeles history. An arsonist who just happened to be a firefighter and arson investigator. The details are gripping and so is the pursuit of John Orr by investigators—proving patterns, connecting one critical fingerprints, lining up eyewitnesses, seeing the big picture. That is, when they aren’t stumbling around or failing at some basic investigative processes. As others have noted, there isn’t much Surreal. “Fire Lover” is a true crime recounting of one of the most notorious arsonists in Los Angeles history. An arsonist who just happened to be a firefighter and arson investigator. The details are gripping and so is the pursuit of John Orr by investigators—proving patterns, connecting one critical fingerprints, lining up eyewitnesses, seeing the big picture. That is, when they aren’t stumbling around or failing at some basic investigative processes. As others have noted, there isn’t much suspense. But “Fire Lover” is worth reading, for no other reason than to digest a gritty portrait of a deeply troubled individual whose issues with women, authority, self-respect and self-esteem are complex, layered and disturbing. Orr, whose crimes were committed decades ago, turned personal slights into terror. “Fire Lover” is also about the slow wheels of bureaucracy and the methodical means of the criminal justice system and Wambaugh brings plenty of edge to writing about both, particularly when the cops and investigators fail. Wambaugh’s colorful prose style keeps the sordid tale moving. His descriptions are over the top, at times, and hilarious in a tabloid kind of way. This book was first published in 2002 and I don't know if Wambaugh has changed his style since then, but a highlighter marking the purple prose might be dry by book’s end. A member of the L.A. Arson Task Force has hair “so coiffed it’d stay in place till Christ came back.” Wambaugh jumps into collective consciousness when it’s convenient: “The judge gave the obligatory admonishment about not reading any news articles or listening to any radio or TV reports about the case, and everyone thought, Fat Chance.” Or: “So after goosing the jurors with a cattle prod, he’d gone back to smacking them with a pig bladder.” At times, Wambaugh stretches to near cartoon levels. A firefighter’s “neck hair was putting out enough electricity to light up Burbank.” Despite the excessive and decidedly non-journalistic flair, the core of the story is a compelling portrait of a dark man who recklessly torched property, homes and businesses with supremely casual disregard for human life. In a way, it’s too bad such a big name as Wambaugh had to write the book because that fact alone probably made Orr happy—and the guy, still serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole, deserves nothing of the sort.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    Unlike most post-WWII American true crime writers, Joseph Wambaugh has a prose style. It's a breezy, Chandleresque, tough-guy style: he uses slang, obscenities, metaphors for crying out loud. As an example, here's a paragraph about Ted Bundy: All death-penalty lawyers remembered the time when America's most notorious violent serial offender, Ted Bundy, had wanted to do some life-and-death trading. After he'd had such a great time representing himself at his trial, giving interviews and fielding m Unlike most post-WWII American true crime writers, Joseph Wambaugh has a prose style. It's a breezy, Chandleresque, tough-guy style: he uses slang, obscenities, metaphors for crying out loud. As an example, here's a paragraph about Ted Bundy: All death-penalty lawyers remembered the time when America's most notorious violent serial offender, Ted Bundy, had wanted to do some life-and-death trading. After he'd had such a great time representing himself at his trial, giving interviews and fielding marriage proposals, it all had stopped. When he was just days away from his appointment with the Florida electric chair, he offered to locate his victims' bodies if the governor of Florida would commute his death sentence to life without parole. But the authorities told him, in effect, Too late, Ted. You got a date with Ol' Sparky, and Satan is waiting for his number-one draft pick. (259-60) So Wambaugh is an unfailingly entertaining writer, and he does a good job of conveying the black humor of law enforcement (not surprisingly, since he was a detective sergeant for the LAPD). He's maybe the only writer I've encountered who can show that humor well enough for a reader to share it. (Rule tries, occasionally, but it always falls flat and awkward.) And he's very good at tracking what he calls the balkanization of American law enforcement--the way that neighboring jurisdictions see themselves as being in competition rather than cooperation and sneer at each other like rival high schools. And he's absolutely willing to wade in and call people out on their mistakes and bad judgment. His heroes in this book are two firefighter/arson investigators: Marvin Casey, who had this serial arson case solved in 1987, four years and scores, if not hundreds, of fires before John Orr was finally arrested in 1991, but couldn't get anyone to listen to him because he was accusing an arson investigator (and because the fingerprint examiner made an indefensible blunder), and Steve Patterson who insisted in the face of cynical, condescending derision from cops that a cold case victim deserved to have them expend their precious time trying to solve her murder. I appreciate Wambaugh's humor and his chutzpah. But everything has the defects of its virtues, and Wambaugh can get grating. I found this particularly true during the lengthy coverage of Orr's lengthy trials (more than 200 pages, so basically half the book) as Wambaugh caromed from patronizing the jury(/ies) to making catty comments about the prosecutors to taking potshots at the defense lawyers (and always just a little contemptuous of John Orr--and on that I'm in agreement with him). He is capable of respect for his subjects, but he doles it out sparingly: the fingerprint expert who cowboys up and admits his egregious mistake under oath in open court, and the people who testified in the penalty phase of John Orr's trial for murder about the loss of their loved ones in the Ole's Home Center fire in 1984 (that's the fire I've tagged this book with, because it is--astonishingly--the only time John Orr's fires actually succeeded in killing anyone). John Orr is considered one of the worst--if not the worst (the other contender being Thomas Sweatt)--serial arsonists of the twentieth century. One of the ATF agents who investigated him thinks that Orr set more than 2,000 fires between 1984 and 1991. Orr used his training in arson investigation to commit arson, and he used his credentials as a deeply respected arson investigator to cover for his crimes. John Orr, first on the scene? Well, that's just how dedicated he is to his job. His novel/memoir, Points of Origin (Orr claims it's fact-based fiction; prosecutors claim it's a very thinly veiled record of his crimes) and his attempts to publish it make it clear just how willing Orr was to trade on his arson to get what he wanted. I'm with Joseph Wambaugh; this man deserves nothing but contempt. The more you point to his dedication as an arson investigator and the number of cases his solved and the number of investigators he trained, the worse his crimes look. As usual I'm conflicted about the death penalty, but I'm certainly glad that Orr got life without parole. He is not a person who either deserves or can be trusted with freedom.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    John Orr was a fire fighter that wanted to become a cop. The psychological test weeded him out; his personality wasn’t stable enough for a guy that carries a gun for a living, and they turned him down. Over the years, however, he became not only a fire chief, but a highly respected arson investigator, and took tremendous pride in the fact that he was part of the law enforcement community. However, occasional snubs from that group made him livid, and he dealt with his rage in the most horrific ma John Orr was a fire fighter that wanted to become a cop. The psychological test weeded him out; his personality wasn’t stable enough for a guy that carries a gun for a living, and they turned him down. Over the years, however, he became not only a fire chief, but a highly respected arson investigator, and took tremendous pride in the fact that he was part of the law enforcement community. However, occasional snubs from that group made him livid, and he dealt with his rage in the most horrific manner imaginable: he became the most prolific arsonist in California history. Joseph Wambaugh captures this true crime story in electrifying detail. I received my copy from Open Road Media and Net Galley in exchange for an honest review, but you can get your copy Tuesday, October 18, 2016 when it is digitally released. It starts with the Ole Hardware Store fire. Ole is a family owned business, but it is large in scale, the size of a big box store, and four people die there. Wambaugh provides personal, poignant details of those that perish, and I appreciate this. The white Volkswagen is particularly moving. Orr doesn’t see it as poignant or tragic, however; he is enraged at the cops and insurance investigators for calling it an accident, and in order to achieve recognition for his twisted projects, he sets more fires. More. And still more. And as the fires increase, the budget, which had been going to be cut, isn’t cut after all, and Orr has all the work he can handle and more, because he is investigating his own crimes. Time and time again, he is seen at the sites of fires doing uncharacteristic things, or before an alarm has yet been sounded, but no one is ready to suggest that he is the party responsible until it is screamingly obvious. The author is tremendously skilled at shifting the mood from the somber, to the ironic, to the occasional moment that is genuinely comical, without ever missing a beat, setting an inappropriate tone, or dropping his documentation, which is meticulous and must have taken a lot of years to compile. I usually am not fond of true crime stories because I know I may not like the ending; the author can’t choose how it comes out if his story is true. But this one drew me like a moth, and I had to get a closer look. Wambaugh chronicles Orr’s life as well as the arsons, investigations, and then the trials that follow, and he does it brilliantly. He received an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, and it was an honor he earned. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    Wambaugh takes on the story of John Orr, an arson investigator and fire department captain in California who is a serial arsonist. Orr is also a murderer since five people, including a small child, died in one of his fires. I had seen a documentary about Orr several years ago and thought that I might want to revisit this fascinating story. The book begins with the retail store fire in which the deaths occurred which initially is deemed accidental. When fire investigator Orr arrives on the scene h Wambaugh takes on the story of John Orr, an arson investigator and fire department captain in California who is a serial arsonist. Orr is also a murderer since five people, including a small child, died in one of his fires. I had seen a documentary about Orr several years ago and thought that I might want to revisit this fascinating story. The book begins with the retail store fire in which the deaths occurred which initially is deemed accidental. When fire investigator Orr arrives on the scene he argues that it is arson and finds a delayed incendiary device to prove it. As we discover as the story progresses, he wants credit for the fires, delighting in the fact that he is an insider who no one would ever suspect. The first half of the book is fascinating but stalls in the second half which is dedicated to Orr's trial. It appears that Wambaugh practically repeated the entire transcript with endless testimony of hundreds of witnesses and scads of technical information. There is just too much information which slows down the pace of the story. I found it interesting that Wambaugh, a former police officer, attacks the police and the justice system in general with a vengeance........his biases are very evident which don't seem appropriate to the straightforward telling of true story. Regardless, his description of a very complex and disturbed man is well done and the book is worth a read when you have nothing else on your tbr list.

  9. 5 out of 5

    W. Frazier

    This book feels like jury duty. The true-crime case study follows Southern California’s 80’s and 90’s serial arsonist John Orr. It’s a compelling story but the book gets bogged down in detail. Orr’s background and the case’s overview take up the first 40% of the book. This is good material and well-written. From this point though, the book slides and becomes one long court case. The story, once intense and provocative, becomes mired in monotony. By the end I felt exhausted, sort of like I had re This book feels like jury duty. The true-crime case study follows Southern California’s 80’s and 90’s serial arsonist John Orr. It’s a compelling story but the book gets bogged down in detail. Orr’s background and the case’s overview take up the first 40% of the book. This is good material and well-written. From this point though, the book slides and becomes one long court case. The story, once intense and provocative, becomes mired in monotony. By the end I felt exhausted, sort of like I had read every word of my home insurance policy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Two or three times a year I temporarily lose my memory and let my perennial fascination with profiling steer me down the dark, dark road of true crime. It's amazing that I can forget how [exploitative of violence/sexist/racist/judgmental/badly written:] [delete as applicable:] true crime can be, but two or three times a year I'm like oh my God, WTF, what am I doing. This one wasn't that bad – it was just kind of boring, with a few off-tone rants about the propensity evidence rules in criminal tri Two or three times a year I temporarily lose my memory and let my perennial fascination with profiling steer me down the dark, dark road of true crime. It's amazing that I can forget how [exploitative of violence/sexist/racist/judgmental/badly written:] [delete as applicable:] true crime can be, but two or three times a year I'm like oh my God, WTF, what am I doing. This one wasn't that bad – it was just kind of boring, with a few off-tone rants about the propensity evidence rules in criminal trials, which, granted, look utterly insane to a non-lawyer. (And, uh, you know, to some of us lawyers too). Not an ounce of interesting psychological analysis to be found, except of the shallow/reductionist variety, surprise surprise. Right, now I'm good for the next six months, hopefully.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jaime F.

    Very well told the true story about a psychopath and a monster, really, who abused his profession to create chaos I So. Cal. Put him away for life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    After finishing The Immune series I was struggling for a bit what to read next.Tried some books but did not enjoy them but thankfully I tried this book and am very much enjoying it. Love the sarcasm and I just want the coward (view spoiler)[ Sick narcissist (hide spoiler)] to be caught. Off to read more.. Finished a few days ago and wish i had written a review immediately afterwards but i did not. sigh. Anyway.What a great writer. Did you know he made me laugh out loud while reading in bed one nig After finishing The Immune series I was struggling for a bit what to read next.Tried some books but did not enjoy them but thankfully I tried this book and am very much enjoying it. Love the sarcasm and I just want the coward (view spoiler)[ Sick narcissist (hide spoiler)] to be caught. Off to read more.. Finished a few days ago and wish i had written a review immediately afterwards but i did not. sigh. Anyway.What a great writer. Did you know he made me laugh out loud while reading in bed one night with tears in my eyes because my cat was getting annoyed. She was lying on my stomach and did not appreciate my belly moving from all the laughter- I did highlight it on my kindle but will type it to add it to my review. Stefan Stein (The prosecutor) got something with which to bust Matassa's (cop) chops when they took a trip to the Central Valley and Central Coast to re-interview witnesses. On the way to Atascadero they were stopped for speeding by a CHiP officer. In the front seat were Matassa and Lucero. In the back were Stefan Stein and Walt Brown. When the CHip approached the car ,Matassa and Lucero showed their hands and Matassa said, "We're cops and we're packing." The CHip Officer stuck his face in the car window and said, "Yeah?So what." For months thereafter,whenever he was called The Mole by Matassa, Stein would throw up his hands,and cry out in falsetto: We got guns! We got guns! And then in the deepest bass he could manage,reply, "Yeah? So what,asshole! I could so picture this. Loved the writing style, the sarcasm that was shown at times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Perri

    I'd heard about this case, so it was interesting to get insight about the crime, the investigation and the trial. Wambaugh goes into a lot of detail, I might say too much detail, but it seems like an effort to be fair and thorough. I felt satisfied to learn so much about what was very likely the worst modern day serial arsonist and what it took to being him to justice. 3 and a half stars I'd heard about this case, so it was interesting to get insight about the crime, the investigation and the trial. Wambaugh goes into a lot of detail, I might say too much detail, but it seems like an effort to be fair and thorough. I felt satisfied to learn so much about what was very likely the worst modern day serial arsonist and what it took to being him to justice. 3 and a half stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    First half was interesting, the investigation was quite good - the best bit, but the court case was a bit boring and the author Joseph Wambaugh knew this and did a clever work of making it light and humorous. This is a book to read cover to cover quickly, don't do what I did and take a holiday half way through. I found I was forgetting certain bits in the first half. Also, sadly (and aggravating for me) is an unsolved case of a rape-murder of a young mother. If I'd know that before hand then I'd First half was interesting, the investigation was quite good - the best bit, but the court case was a bit boring and the author Joseph Wambaugh knew this and did a clever work of making it light and humorous. This is a book to read cover to cover quickly, don't do what I did and take a holiday half way through. I found I was forgetting certain bits in the first half. Also, sadly (and aggravating for me) is an unsolved case of a rape-murder of a young mother. If I'd know that before hand then I'd have skipped the book. Once again a need for warnings on books just like movies. Heck call them trigger warnings if you have to but I absolutely detest reading about any cruelty and violence, call me a snowflake if it makes you feel better, but I'll have no qualms punching you in the guts just to show my wish to not read about it doesn't mean I'm a pushover and refrain from force myself for self-defence and not impartial to using my masculinity against you *BIG CHEESY GRIN*. Not triggered, just disgusted by it and find people that can happily read about that stuff to be ghoulish cretins. *grins* Anyhoo. The arsonist wasn't forensically linked to the case in the end. So all that for nothin'! The arsonist is certainly on the bad personalities spectrum. After reading about what a creep this slimeball was I was hoping the death penalty was given but it wasn't. Sucks. And I'm against capital punishment. So consider yourself warned.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Meier

    “Fire Lover” is the true story of John Orr, an arson investigator of the Glendale Fire Department in California. Throughout the book, there are a string of fires that are being set in stores during business hours, all using the same method. As the story progresses, the state's main suspect becomes John Orr due his suspicious writing of 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' “Fire Lover” is the true story of John Orr, an arson investigator of the Glendale Fire Department in California. Throughout the book, there are a string of fires that are being set in stores during business hours, all using the same method. As the story progresses, the state's main suspect becomes John Orr due his suspicious writing of 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. This book is very effective and keeps the reader involved and wanting to read more. One is constantly asking the question, “did the dedicated firefighter and arson investigator really set all 2,000 of those fires causing millions in property damage and taking multiple lives in the process?” As the jury examines the evidence and the motives, so does the reader. You are shown all of the evidence that points towards John Orr, but at the same time, you remember everything he has done that make it impossible for him to have committed these arsons. Joseph Wambaugh's accounts of the events in this book are so realistic and descriptive that you feel like you are actually there, going through the triumphs and troubles of Orr's life with him as well as witnessing every single fire that took place. Wambaugh has a very strong presence of voice throughout and his word choice really brings the book alive and unified. “Fire Lover” would appeal to anybody who enjoys true stories that include very detailed descriptions and facts. It would also appeal to those who are interested or involved in crime investigation, law enforcement, and/or the fire department. I highly recommend this book to all, even if you do not fall under the previous criteria. “Fire Lover” is exciting, engaging, well written, factual, and an all around “good read.” After reading this book, I will be sure to take notice of all exits when I enter a store during business hours.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jillypenny

    A. This book was absolute garbage. I think it’s summed up perfectly by a previous reviewer: “Interesting subject matter. Terribly written” A full third of this book was directly quoted from the court transcripts. Not just the interesting bits, but all the boring, unnecessary shit in between as well. Who was this book for? The author wrote it directly speaking to the old firefighter/policeman boys club. It’s like he recorded conversations in a locker room! Both racism (“There are more Pakis in a 7 A. This book was absolute garbage. I think it’s summed up perfectly by a previous reviewer: “Interesting subject matter. Terribly written” A full third of this book was directly quoted from the court transcripts. Not just the interesting bits, but all the boring, unnecessary shit in between as well. Who was this book for? The author wrote it directly speaking to the old firefighter/policeman boys club. It’s like he recorded conversations in a locker room! Both racism (“There are more Pakis in a 711 than in Islamabad” - this wasn’t even in reference to a relevant point in the book, just there randomly. “He must have started praying to Fatima or whoever Portuguese boys pray to when they’re in big trouble” - do some fucking research!!) and sexism (reducing an evening news anchor to “the girl with the big tits that reads the news at night”, and talking about police officer on duty stopping to take pictures of “sweaty chicks at the beach”) abound. I had to check the publication date to see if this was just old-fashioned cavemanism, but this was written in 2002! Way too recent for this kind of shit!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    True story of John Leonard Orr, a serial arsonist who is believed to have started more than 2000 fires leaving victims and damage. The really sad thing is that John Orr was a fire fighter who was supposed to save lives. This book is written with lots of detail and lots of characters so you have to pay attention. Some of the crimes are horrific so not easy to get through. This story also covers the bureaucracy of fire enforcement and law enforcement and the friction between the two. The discord e True story of John Leonard Orr, a serial arsonist who is believed to have started more than 2000 fires leaving victims and damage. The really sad thing is that John Orr was a fire fighter who was supposed to save lives. This book is written with lots of detail and lots of characters so you have to pay attention. Some of the crimes are horrific so not easy to get through. This story also covers the bureaucracy of fire enforcement and law enforcement and the friction between the two. The discord enabled the arsonist to continue. The book ends with the trials that convict John Orr and put him in prison, never admitting to any of the crimes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    So I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so of this book. After that it quickly spiraled downhill into a sea of cringe-worthy metaphors, see "getting his mongoose milked," and the most dull, uninspired reporting of court room drama that I have ever read. Unfortunately I am one of those people who forced myself to finish a book once I start it, so I trudged through the next 200 pages in agony, just wanting it to be over. Just don't read it. You'll regret it. So I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so of this book. After that it quickly spiraled downhill into a sea of cringe-worthy metaphors, see "getting his mongoose milked," and the most dull, uninspired reporting of court room drama that I have ever read. Unfortunately I am one of those people who forced myself to finish a book once I start it, so I trudged through the next 200 pages in agony, just wanting it to be over. Just don't read it. You'll regret it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Terrible writing, fascinating subject.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    Interesting I had never heard of this case before, so it was interesting to read about. Considering what an odd duck John Orr was and how he was seen by those around him, I was surprised to find that it took them so long to catch him.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drew Zagorski

    Wambaugh delivers as usual. Very well written narrative of the hunt for and court proceedings of a serial arsonist. Interesting read...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is a true-crime story about an arsonist in the greater Los Angeles area in the early 1990's. John Orr was a firefighter who was promoted to arson investigator and claimed to have caught a number of arsonists in the Los Angeles area. It was thought at first to be a strange coincidence that he was one of the first people to arrive at a fire scene, ready to watch and photograph the fire. In one hardware store fire, four or five people were killed. It took the combined efforts of ATF, FBI and L This is a true-crime story about an arsonist in the greater Los Angeles area in the early 1990's. John Orr was a firefighter who was promoted to arson investigator and claimed to have caught a number of arsonists in the Los Angeles area. It was thought at first to be a strange coincidence that he was one of the first people to arrive at a fire scene, ready to watch and photograph the fire. In one hardware store fire, four or five people were killed. It took the combined efforts of ATF, FBI and LA county police and firefighters to bring Orr to account for the fires he started. This is the first book of Mr. Wambaugh's that I have read. It will also be the last, unfortunately. I did have two other true crime books of his on my TBR list but after reading this, I won't be indulging. The author is supposed to be an invisible presence in his or her written works, presenting the facts and the story and leaving his opinion by the wayside. That was not the case with this book. There were a couple of statements that the author made which pulled me out of the story and had me wondering "is that racist, or am I just being overly sensitive?" He also made references to things like the Oliver Stone film, JFK, that readers younger than a certain age are liable to miss. I would not expect my children to catch a reference to a film from the 1990's that has nothing to do with the actual story. Yet he referenced JFK at least five times in this book. At another point the author was being boorish towards courtroom observers with no good reason to. It all just really grated on my nerves. And I started to skim after a while because I was "done" reading it and just wanted to know the outcome of things. Having said that, I don't have too much argument with the mechanics of the book. The plot is pretty straight-forward; most of the book is spent discussing legal maneuvering and courtroom scenes . The main character is not really a likable character though there's not really a lot of character development. The setting is California in the 1990's. There is some violence related to fires scattered throughout. Some alcohol use. There are some sex scenes throughout. Some adult language. This is not a book for teenagers. I am giving this book two stars for reasons I have listed above. Honestly is better to read the Wikipedia entry on this one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Joseph Wambaugh is a great writer of both fiction and non-fiction but this is not one of his better efforts. While the subject is interesting and thought provoking the book ends up being overlong and somewhat tedious. Part of this is due to the overly detailed descriptions of courtroom maneuvering and legal wrangling involved in the prosecution of arsonist John Leonard Orr. Orr, described as "probably the most prolific American arsonist of the twentieth century", was a highly respected firefight Joseph Wambaugh is a great writer of both fiction and non-fiction but this is not one of his better efforts. While the subject is interesting and thought provoking the book ends up being overlong and somewhat tedious. Part of this is due to the overly detailed descriptions of courtroom maneuvering and legal wrangling involved in the prosecution of arsonist John Leonard Orr. Orr, described as "probably the most prolific American arsonist of the twentieth century", was a highly respected firefighter and arson investigator with the Glendale, California Fire Department. He was accused (and convicted) of starting a multitude of fires and causing the deaths of at least four people. About half of this book is dedicated to the complicated process of bringing the case to trial, and the resulting trial proceedings. Even the author notes, on more than one occasion, that the whole legal process was exhausting and overlong. Add the inclusion of some complicated technical testimonials from expert witnesses and it makes for some confusing and, frankly, dull reading. I can't really recommend this book. The book contains sexual references and adult language. I received a free review copy of this book compliments of the publisher through NetGalley.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I really enjoyed this book. I found it well written, & enjoyed when the author would throw in his 2 cents, usually in the form of a smart-ass comment. I found it kept a good , steady pace. The only missing pieces for me were the facts that there wasn't anything from the women in his life. He was married 4 times, plus numerous girlfriends, both when single & while married.I don't know whether he made any attempt to talk to them, or if they all declined (hard to imagine), but I think they would ha I really enjoyed this book. I found it well written, & enjoyed when the author would throw in his 2 cents, usually in the form of a smart-ass comment. I found it kept a good , steady pace. The only missing pieces for me were the facts that there wasn't anything from the women in his life. He was married 4 times, plus numerous girlfriends, both when single & while married.I don't know whether he made any attempt to talk to them, or if they all declined (hard to imagine), but I think they would have had some insight to share. Just seemed like it left a hole in the narrative. The other missing piece for me was the lack of photos. I like photos in my true crime books, & this one doesn't have any. It's a shame that John Orr wouldn't talk to the FBI profilers, I think they could've learned a lot from him. So little is known about arsonists because organized serial arsonists are so rare. This was a unique true crime subject & an interesting read. 31/2 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Twist

    Joseph Wambaugh chronicles the events leading up to as well as the aftermath of a series of arsonist fires set in southern California in the late eighties. His research of eventual suspect, John Leonard Orr, is painstaking, as it reveals much about the making of a man who would eventually betray a public's trust from the respected position of an arson investigator. The portrayal is brilliant for the first third of the book as events detailing not only Orr's activities but the task force assigned Joseph Wambaugh chronicles the events leading up to as well as the aftermath of a series of arsonist fires set in southern California in the late eighties. His research of eventual suspect, John Leonard Orr, is painstaking, as it reveals much about the making of a man who would eventually betray a public's trust from the respected position of an arson investigator. The portrayal is brilliant for the first third of the book as events detailing not only Orr's activities but the task force assigned to look into the increased arson activity, show the kinds of bureaucratic ineptitude that seems so prevalent when agencies attempt to work together. The book dries up as it attempts to depict the courtroom legalese. There is very little by way of climax, and the reader is left merely disillusioned that anyone could sink to such lows for gratification.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ubiquitousbastard

    I thought that this book had an interesting subject, and Wambaugh is beyond revered in the field of crime writing, but overall I thought that this was a bit sensationalist. There were some actual moments reading this that I just wanted to look at the author and go: really? He tries to force his view on at least one particular theory, despite there being really no evidence that Orr was involved. And the overly dramatic way he tries to push it was just kind of cringey. So, I can't say that this wa I thought that this book had an interesting subject, and Wambaugh is beyond revered in the field of crime writing, but overall I thought that this was a bit sensationalist. There were some actual moments reading this that I just wanted to look at the author and go: really? He tries to force his view on at least one particular theory, despite there being really no evidence that Orr was involved. And the overly dramatic way he tries to push it was just kind of cringey. So, I can't say that this was one of the better true crime books I've ever read. Slight note, no, this wasn't good enough that I read it twice, Goodreads is just being a pain. I read this book once and have no desire to read it a second time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    This is the story of the arson investigator, one of the best in CA, who is actually an arsonist. I had moved out of CA by the time this all happened, but I remember hearing about it. Great read but I am still having a hard time believing someone that we, as the public, trust.. HE'S A FIRE FIGHTER!! The fire fighters are supposed to be the good guys.. not out there setting fires, burning down houses, and stores, and other peoples property, and killing innocent people in the process.. sick bugger! This is the story of the arson investigator, one of the best in CA, who is actually an arsonist. I had moved out of CA by the time this all happened, but I remember hearing about it. Great read but I am still having a hard time believing someone that we, as the public, trust.. HE'S A FIRE FIGHTER!! The fire fighters are supposed to be the good guys.. not out there setting fires, burning down houses, and stores, and other peoples property, and killing innocent people in the process.. sick bugger! Makes me mad! Very interesting trial setting.. gives you the evidence and puts you in the jury seat.. Good all around read..

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Very interesting true story. A lot of it involved the trial of this maniac. I can't believe none of the lawyers spoke of the fact that the arsonist walked right past a toddler and felt nothing knowing what he was about to do. I enjoyed it for the most part, however, the trial part with all the legalese did kinda get to me in some parts, as in my eyes glazed over. But, that's just me. I think it was a great true story and can't believe I've never heard of this guy. Hopefully he reads this and it Very interesting true story. A lot of it involved the trial of this maniac. I can't believe none of the lawyers spoke of the fact that the arsonist walked right past a toddler and felt nothing knowing what he was about to do. I enjoyed it for the most part, however, the trial part with all the legalese did kinda get to me in some parts, as in my eyes glazed over. But, that's just me. I think it was a great true story and can't believe I've never heard of this guy. Hopefully he reads this and it annoys him. Ha!!! Thanks William Morrow and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I very much enjoyed the first part of this book that described who John Orr was, how his life went, and how he could be the "person of interest" in the string of arsons he was later accused of. The character development of those involved was well written and interesting. The trial part of the book was brutal. It went on and on and on and on recounting everything we already read with some random personal observations thrown in from the former cop author. I very much enjoyed the first part of this book that described who John Orr was, how his life went, and how he could be the "person of interest" in the string of arsons he was later accused of. The character development of those involved was well written and interesting. The trial part of the book was brutal. It went on and on and on and on recounting everything we already read with some random personal observations thrown in from the former cop author.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peggy Schooley

    Too much too much too much The first half of this book was engaging, trying to figure out who was doing what when. But then the trial begins, and it was slogging through heavy spring mud just to stub your toe on more spring mud. I skipped most of the pages reflecting the trial itself, jumped to penalty, and called it a day. Ugh.

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