cover image Five Floors Up: The Heroic Family Story of Four Generations in the FDNY

Five Floors Up: The Heroic Family Story of Four Generations in the FDNY

Brian McDonald. Grand Central, $29 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5387-5320-0

Journalist McDonald (Last Call at Elaine’s) surveys the last century of firefighting in New York City through the lens of one family’s captivating history: the Feehans, who’ve served in the FDNY over multiple generations, starting in the “roaring twenties.” In 1926, William Feehan, the son of Irish immigrants, joined the department at a time when it was already regarded as the “finest... ever assembled.” His passion for the calling was inherited by his namesake son (born 1929), who becomes McDonald’s main character. That William Feehan initially failed his required eye exam, but went on to become the first firefighter to ever to hold every rank in the FDNY, including commissioner. Tragically, he perished at the World Trade Center at the age of 71, while directing rescue operations. McDonald’s choice to open on 9/11, as William’s son Billy Feehan gets the grim news, is a tug at the heartstrings, and sets the stage for a dramatic decades-spanning account of brave men risking their lives for New Yorkers. The narrative moves fire-by-fire tamed, addressing changing hiring practices, politics, and firefighting techniques, with due discussion of the FDNY’s history of racism and sexism. It’s a worthy complement to titles like Notes from the Fireground, for readers who enjoy histories with heroes at the forefront. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Sept.)