The hunt forthe most prolific American arsonist of the twentieth century—in this Edgar Award–winning true crime story that’s “stranger than fiction” (The New York Times).
From Joseph Wambaugh, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of such classics as The Onion Field and The Choirboys, comes the extraordinary story of the chase for the “Pillow Pyro,” led by one ambitious firefighter.
Growing up in Los Angeles, John Orr idolized law enforcement. However, after being rejected by both the LAPD and LAFD, he settled for a position with the Glendale Fire Department. There, he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a fire captain and one of Southern California’s best-known and most respected arson investigators. But Orr led another, unseen life, one that included womanizing and an insatiable thirst for recognition.
While Orr busted a slew of petty arsonists, there was one serial criminal he could not track down. Nothing was safe from the so-called Pillow Pyro’s obsession. Homes, retail stores, and fields of dry brush all went up in flames. His handiwork led to millions of dollars worth of property damage and the deaths of four innocent bystanders. But after years of evading the police, he made a mistake—one that would turn Orr’s life upside down.
The Washington Post raves, “When [Joseph Wambaugh] talks about the culture of cops versus the culture of firemen, we get no speculation, only hard-earned details.” Based on meticulous research, interviews, case records, and thousands of pages of court transcripts, Fire Lover is Wambaugh at his best.
Returning to print after a six-year hiatus, former LAPD detective sergeant and bestselling author Wambaugh (The Onion Field, etc.) focuses on firefighters rather than his usual police beat. It's a surprising switch, but Wambaugh's regular readers will not be disappointed, since sparks fly throughout this potent probe into the life of arson investigator John Leonard Orr. Fascinated by fires in his L.A. childhood, Orr learned fire fighting in the air force. An eccentric loner with few friends and a womanizer with a string of failed marriages, he was rejected by the LAPD and LAFD. In 1974 he joined the Glendale Fire Department, where his gun-toting, crime-crusading capers earned him the label "cop wanna-be" from both police and firemen. Rising in the ranks, Orr became well-known as an arson sleuth. He had a sixth sense for tracking pyros, but there was one serial arsonist, responsible for the deaths of four, who remained elusive. In 1990, during the worst fire in Glendale's history, some noted that Orr's behavior "seemed very peculiar." That same year, Orr was appointed fire captain and began writing a "fact-based novel" about a serial arsonist who turns out to be a firefighter and in it Orr revealed certain facts about the unsolved arson case that he couldn't have known through his work. Was Orr the serial arsonist? Wambaugh recreates these events for a suspenseful, adrenaline-rush account of what one profiler dubbed "probably the most prolific American arsonist" of the 20th century.
Good read. Very detailed, too detailed. The book could have gotten all the information a reader would need in half of the pages.