Fighting Fire with Words

A local author takes the edict “write what you know” and turns it into a riveting series of books




Author Philip Soletsky in gear at the Brookline Fire
Station where he volunteers. All of Soletsky’s books are available from local independent bookstores or from
Amazon in print or e-editions. The series’ cover artwork was created by Rachel Carpenter.

Author Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire truck.” His experience as a survivor of the Dresden fire bombings in WWII provided him with themes for his famous books and even inspired him to become a volunteer fireman after the war.

Author Philip Soletsky, a PhD physicist and Medal of Valor recipient, has spent 16 years as a NH volunteer firefighter in the town of Brookline. Along the way, he has turned out a half-dozen well-crafted novels about what he terms “the insanity of being a small-town firefighter.” Soletsky notes, “One day my pager might go off for a structure fire with people trapped inside, and the next for a dog bitten by a beaver” (an actual call, he says).

For his Firefighter Mystery series, he weaves the stories and stresses he has witnessed into fast-paced and vividly imagined scenarios as seen through the eyes of his protagonist, Jack Fallon. That each story hinges on a mystery is not really a stretch, since every scene of a major fire is in fact a mystery that must be unraveled carefully, seeking clues that wouldn’t be apparent to the untrained eye. There’s also a philosophical twist to Soletsky’s narrative force. Sixteen years of confronting life, death and the loss (or salvation) of livelihoods must give one time to ponder such verities.

But in the end, what readers are seeking in a mystery is to be “there” at the scene, feeling the heat and taking the risks alongside characters who are real, whose lives matter.

In all of this, Soletsky delivers.

Combustible

Lee Richmond’s well-reviewed first novel, “High on Gold,” was a picaresque set during the trippy Sixties, and it includes some of the most vivid descriptions of the hedonistic pursuits of the hippie era ever published.

Richmond’s knack for describing the tactile and sensual experiences of his characters is in full evidence in this, his latest novel, “They Were Fire” [$17.99, Piscataqua Press].

When Suzanne Danilov, a young, ambitious field engineer for the EPA, leaves her family behind and becomes the incident commander at the site of a massive train wreck, she copes with a cascade of confrontations with other authorities. She also must deal with the scrutiny of the press and the concerns of residents of the small town that is devastated and increasingly endangered by the aftermath of the wreck.

Learning as she goes, Danilov tackles each crisis as it comes, but when she succumbs to the charms of the deputy chief of the local fire department, her own life begins to smolder and threatens to burst into flame.

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