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


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...

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...

Marika rated it ★★★★★

April 17, 2017

True crime lovers will devour this story of how a small town in Virginia was almost decimated by deliberately set fires. 67 fires in just 5 months. 67. American Fire is written with a reporter's eye for details, with eyewitness accounts that makes for a combustible read. It's not why the fires ar...

Diane S ☔ rated it ★★★★☆

August 03, 2017

3.5 Thoughts soon.

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...

Marlene rated it ★★★★★

March 05, 2017

An absolutely fascinating story, and Hesse does an excellent job in the telling of it. I was hooked from the first page to the last.

BAM rated it ★★★★☆

August 04, 2017

True Crime Commemoration # 30 Setting: 2012 Accomack County, VA

Melike rated it ★★★★☆

August 09, 2017

Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse gives us a well researched and fascinating account of more than 70 fires that took place in Accomack county, Virginia between November 2012 and April 2013. Accomack county is a rural area that is wrought with poverty and economic decline, but that is not the...

Nicole rated it ★★★★★

July 17, 2017

I don't know if books like this are my favorite kind of books but I have come to realize that books about small towns, fiction or nonfiction, books that are journalistic endeavors but do so in a way that there is a narrative, there is a story, there are real people not just abstractions and facts...

Katie rated it ★★★☆☆

June 23, 2017

Thank you to Liveright for the advance copy of this book. I was really excited to read this after hearing the publisher's pitch at BookExpo's Book Club Speed Dating. I enjoy the occasional true crime book and am especially interested when there seems to be more to the story than the typical [pers...

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