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Book Review: One Foot in the Black by Kurt L. Kamm

Aug 6, 2008
Oops, it wasn't until I had had read almost the entire book that I discovered that this was fiction and not biographical! This story is so well constructed it is impossible to tell fact from fiction. The characters are life-like, and they are crafted with a skill and panache that one rarely finds in a novel. I was devastated when I discovered it was a novel, I really wanted to ask Kurt Kamm about that time on the mountain with the fire all around!

Having made my confession, let us talk about the story. The title One Foot In The Black is a reference to fighting Wildfires, more importantly the placement of firefighters, they are in the just scorched area dealing with the fire at close range. It is to say the least a dangerous place to be. If the wind changes, you are in big trouble, but the science and experience shows that you at least have a possible escape route.

Author Kurt Kamm takes us on an odyssey of discovery, a discovery of what it is like to be on the fire line, and a look at what drives the people who risk their lives so that we still have possessions after the fire has tried to rip through our property. Maybe most important of all, we get to peek inside the mind of one young man that has decided to make this his career.

The style that Kamm has adopted is an interesting one, and one that essentially permits two very different stories to be told side by side. We have the story of 19 year old Greg Kowalski entering the field of wildfire fighting, and we have the rather dark and sad story of Greg's upbringing. Living in a dysfunctional family with a verbal and physically abusive father Greg can think of little more than how to escape. The opportunity arises when he attends his father's 'office' Christmas party. The abusive elder Kowalski is also a fire fighter, and it is the station chief that offers Greg the opportunity to move to California and become a seasonal member of the CDF.

This is an opportunity that Greg cannot turn down, escape from Saginaw and the oppressive regime that his father has created. Of course there are downsides, what will happen to his mother and sister, who will still be under the ogre's spell.

What Greg lacked in Saginaw, he finds in California, a father figure he can admire, a father figure that offers genuine friendship and leadership. Fighting wildfires is a dangerous occupation, as Greg discovers first hand, caught by surprise with a wind direction Greg faces a life or death situation. To save himself, or risk near certain death to try and save his friend and mentor?

I think it would be inappropriate to reveal more, I have a sadistic streak! You will just have to read One Foot In The Black yourself to find out what happens!

I really like the meticulous attention to detail that Kurt Kamm has included. And clearly the detail is factual, his book has been endorsed by several fire fighting organizations. Kurt Kamm lives in Southern California and has had some first hand experience with wild fires, apparently one actually made it to the front door of his Malibu home.

You can find out more about this author from his web site, and One Foot In The Black is available from Amazon.
About the Author
Simon Barrett is an adult educator in Calgary, Alberta. With the 11 months a year of winter, he reads a lot of books! He is also a contributing editor for Blogger News and maintains a personal blog at Simon B.
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