Brown, author of the award-winning working-class novel Joe (1991), here gives nonfiction a try with a memoir of his fire-fighting days in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Most of a firefighter's 24-hour day is spent killing time: cooking, watching dirty movies, doing routine equipment maintenance, and sleeping; Brown catches the lazy, good-old-boy camaraderie of the firehouse perfectly. With somewhat less success, he also reflects on how he spends his 48 hours off--fishing, drinking, hunting, and playing with his kids. Such tales are charming but sound a minor key when placed alongside the account of a fire at Ole Miss' law school, in which Brown captures precisely the adrenaline rush, fear, and exhaustion beyond reasoning that a big fire evokes in firefighters. Brown's compassionate rendering of ambulance runs, where he uses the hydraulic Hurst tool to break through smashed vehicles and reach trapped victims, is the best writing here, however. Brown portrays himself modestly, not as a hero risking his life, but simply as a professional with a job to do. Brown's work schedule is too loose a means of organization, but his individual essays are witty, reverent, and moving. John Mort
If you want to know what the Firefighter is doing read this book. Well written and very inciteful.