American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

Into the Wild

Read American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land Online Free - The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate—there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning.

The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn’t lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other’s inspiration and escape…until they weren’t.

Though it’s hard to believe today, one hundred years ago Accomack was the richest rural county in the nation. Slowly it’s been drained of its industry—agriculture—as well as its wealth and population. In an already remote region, limited employment options offer little in the way of opportunity. A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. Hesse brings to life the Eastern Shore and its inhabitants, battling a punishing economy and increasingly terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. The result evokes the soul of rural America—a land half gutted before the fires even began.

Title : American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 1631490516
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 pages


Carol rated it ★★★★☆

November 06, 2017

Fifteen or so years prior to the first of the string of 70 Accomack County, Virginia fires that are the subject of American Fire, I was working at a Richmond firm for the summer and one of the partners owned a weekend getaway waterfront home on the Eastern Shore, the lawn of which gracefully slop...

Diane rated it ★★★★☆

December 27, 2017

This is one of those true crime stories that is so bonkers I couldn't believe it really happened. But it did happen — you can find the crazy news articles online. However, if you appreciate a good mystery, I recommend avoiding all spoilers and just let the book unfold for you. The story is about a...

JanB rated it ★★★★☆

July 30, 2017

4.5 stars This is fascinating journalism, telling the story of a 2012/2013 crime spree in rural Virginia where arsonists started 80+ fires over a period of a few months. All were set in abandoned buildings, in a struggling county that had no shortage of abandoned buildings. Some nights there were...

Darlene rated it ★★★☆☆

August 31, 2017

I would rate this book 3.5 stars. This book, American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land written by 'Washington Post' reporter, Monica Hesse seemed like a good choice for me. I enjoy reading true crime books and as an added bonus, this one appeared to suggest a causal relationship bet...

Ron rated it ★★★★☆

November 26, 2017

I wondered. How could love be part of a true story about arson? The answer: it’s not love in a typical sense. Not romance. That’s not meant to deter people from picking this one up, especially those looking for a good nonfiction book to read. The first half is a thrilling hunt for an arsonist ami...

Brandice rated it ★★★★☆

July 19, 2017

As the cover of American Fire states, this book is about love, arson, and life in a vanishing land. The dangerous duo set 67 fires - that's six-Seven! in a 5 month span in Accomack County, Virginia. In American Fire, the scene is set well and the story is well-told. I was able to hear Monica Hess...

Sheri rated it ★★★☆☆

October 11, 2017

"Things [in people] were broken early on" (paraphrased p. 184), and the troubles and stresses of life exacerbate the problem(s). "Maybe some people were affected more than others, in ways nobody ever could have predicted." (p. 181) For the residents of Accomack County, the arsons happening all aro...

Taryn rated it ★★★★☆

August 09, 2017

Ever since I inhaled the S-Town podcast in two days, I’ve been looking to recapture that weird, can’t-look-away fascination I felt as I listened to John B. McLemore’s story unfold. American Fire comes pretty dang close. The basic story is this: a few years ago, someone started lighting abandoned b...

♥ Sandi ❣ rated it ★★★★☆

August 25, 2017

4 stars Accomack County was in ruin. The economy was down, few inhabitants, of a cluster of small towns, had much - not much money, not many possessions, and even less hope. For 5 1/2 months, in 2013, no one could catch an arsonist in Accomack County Virginia. Local police, fire fighters, and inve...

Truman32 rated it ★★★★☆

September 26, 2017

Starting early November 2012 ,and going through several months, over 60 fires were purposely set on the rural Eastern Shore area of Virginia. These fires consumed abandoned houses and uninhabited buildings in Accomack County. The region was suffering from hard economic times so there were literal...

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