An adrenaline-fueled read that will stay with you long after you turn the final page, BAD CALL is a "compulsively readable, totally unforgettable"* memoir about working on a New York City ambulance in the 1960s. (*James Patterson)
Bad Call is Mike Scardino's visceral, fast-moving, and mordantly funny account of the summers he spent working as an "ambulance attendant" on the mean streets of late-1960s New York.
Fueled by adrenaline and Sabrett's hot dogs, young Mike spends his days speeding from one chaotic emergency to another. His adventures take him into the middle of incipient race riots, to the scene of a plane crash at JFK airport and into private lives all over Queens, where New Yorkers are suffering, and dying, in unimaginable ways. Learning on the job, Mike encounters all manner of freakish accidents (the man who drank Drano, the woman attacked by rats, the man who inflated like a balloon), meets countless unforgettable New York characters, falls in love, is nearly murdered, and gets an early and indelible education in the impermanence of life and the cruelty of chance.
Action-packed, poignant, and rich with details that bring Mike's world to technicolor life, Bad Call is a gritty portrait of a bygone era as well as a bracing reminder that, though "life itself is a fatal condition," it's worth pausing to notice the moments of beauty, hope, and everyday heroism along the way.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Chris Scardino’s exhilarating, gritty memoir about working as an ambulance attendant in the late ’60s makes you feel lucky to be alive. The book’s tone can be summed up in one of Scardino’s many rhetorical questions: “Who calls an ambulance unless something bad has happened?” Each chapter explores a different emergency, providing a sometimes-macabre, occasionally-beautiful peek into the lives of real New Yorkers from all walks of life. It’s heartbreaking, horrifying, and redemptive—but always human—and it’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page.
In this fresh and powerful debut memoir, Scardino looks back on his summers during college in the late 1960s when he worked as a New York City hospital ambulance attendant. Working 56 hours a week "Nights and days, whenever they need me" Scardino recounts in short chapters the many emergencies he witnessed and assisted in that showed him "the entire catalog of horrifying things that can happen to a human body." From accidental deaths to suicides, Scardino writes with the detail of a crime reporter ("What had been his left side had grown into the carpet. Just coalesced with the carpet.... Instead of a face, there was a flat oval plane covered with maggots"). Scardino admits that what bothers him "more than seeing how people die, is seeing how people live": in one example, he describes a diabetic woman whose legs are gangrenous below the knees, who weighs over 400 pounds, and who needs somehow to be carried down from her second-floor apartment. "If there's one thing I've learned on the job," he writes, "it's that any call, anywhere, can always get worse." Scardino's unsparing memoir offers an empathetic look at human pain and suffering.