As record-size wildfires blaze across the west and workers clear the last pieces of debris from the World Trade Center site, readers with no more courage than it takes to drive to Barnes & Noble are snapping up the many new firefighter books on store shelves and best-seller lists. The current crop precedes what will be a glut of 9/11-anniversary-pegged books this fall, including former New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen's memoir and a history of his department. It's clear firefighters are hot. The simmering question: Will enough vicarious heroes buy books to sustain the trend? --By Rebecca Winters
SEPT. 11 PORTRAITS David Halberstam's chronicle of a bereaved Manhattan firehouse that lost 12 men on Sept. 11 depicts in mournful detail the unique bonds that firefighters share.
HOW HOT? Reaching No. 5 on the New York Times best-seller list, Firehouse has earned the finest reviews of the bunch and is selling well, despite the melancholy subject.
YOU ARE THERE In a straightforward account to author Daniel Paisner, Richard Picciotto of the New York fire department describes four hours spent trapped in the World Trade Center's North Tower.
HOW HOT? "Pitch's" book is the best received of various first-person accounts from Sept. 11, hitting No. 9 on the Times's list.
SURVIVAL STORIES This collection of 21 fire-fighting tales due out in July includes stories by Sebastian Junger, John McPhee, Studs Terkel and Sallie Tisdale.
HOW HOT? Adrenaline-charged narratives like Junger's tale of smoke jumpers in Colorado's South Canyon wildfire in 1994 should snare readers--until the fire season ends.
TRUE CRIME Even firefighters can be bad guys. Joseph Wambaugh's antihero is a respected California fire captain who becomes a prolific arsonist.
HOW HOT? Despite The Onion Field author's history of best sellers, this title peaked at No. 31 on the Times's list. Evidently readers aren't ready for complexity.
KIDS' FARE Author Christine Kole MacLean and illustrator Mike Reed's warm and fuzzy picture book is one of several children's titles with a firefighting theme due in coming months.
HOW HOT? Kids have always emulated their helmeted heroes. Now that grownups have caught the fever too, expect firefighter children's books to smoke the competition.