It is just about nine months since September 11 and the American public is still eager to read about the events of that catastrophic day, especially books about the heroic efforts of firefighters. One, David Halberstam's Firehouse, lands in the #15 spot on PW's hardcover nonfiction list; the other, Last Man Down, by FDNY Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto, is #18.
Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist and bestselling author Halberstam recounts the events of that infamous day by detailing the tragic story of his local firehouse—Engine 40, Ladder 35. Thirteen men went to the World Trade Center; 12 did not return. The book began as a March 2002 Vanity Fair article, but the author became so involved in the story and with the people he interviewed that he delivered 50,000 words instead of the 10,000 the magazine had asked for. Hyperion has gone back to press three times, for 178,000 copies. Needless to say, broadcast and print media coverage is extensive. Halberstam is donating half of his proceeds to a special fund set up by his local fire company.
Picciotto was the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the collapse of the towers; he was also the second chief on the scene after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. When the South Tower collapsed, he was inside the North Tower, where he remained until it, too, fell. Media coverage for his book has also been extensive, beginning with Imus on April 30, the on-sale date. Picciotto has been doing nonstop publicity, including many national media appearances and about 100 phone interviews with radio stations across the country. He has done about 20 book signings in the tri-state area, and all have been packed with firefighters and civilians. Berkley has gone back to press six times, bringing the total to 140,000 copies.
With reporting by Dick Donahue