3000 DEGREES: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It
Release date: 03/01/2002
During the long night of December 3, 1999, a windowless, century-old storage building in downtown Worchester, Mass., was turned into a six-story stove. In gripping prose ("The smoke banked down like bolts of black velvet, heavy sheets curling and rolling and folding together"), Flynn describes how, once ignited, the deserted Worchester Cold Storage building must have been the perfect structure for a perfect fire. In a style similar to Sebastian Junger's, Flynn's chapters hustle from disastrous city fires that occurred earlier that summer, building tension and setting the scene for the final disaster in this tottering working-class New England town. With confident, deft description, Flynn brings to life this 3,000-degree catastrophe with a crackling intensity, which, unfortunately, he never quite achieves for the people within his story. The human element doesn't quite live up to what he presented in his first award-winning Esquire magazine piece that won notice for the survivors as well as the spouses and parents of the six firemen who were killed. Likewise, Flynn minimizes the subsequent police investigation and forensics that made national headlines for weeks after the fire. Nonetheless, the same work ethos that made New York City firemen and rescue companies run into the doomed World Trade Center towers is here in a smaller dimension but equally intense story of fire-fighting tragedy. Photos, blueprints and map not seen by PW. (Mar. 29)
Forecast:With a large marketing campaign, Flynn's powerful drama, which has been optioned by Imagine Entertainment (the folks who did Backdraft), has the potential to sell well. Tales of firefighters are hot, but this title might be overshadowed by books on firefighters from September 11.