Sometimes fate works in unexpected ways! Fire season is almost over again for another year, but the close calls this season prompted me to buy a novel called ‘The Spark’. It’s a fictional story with an incredible ring of authenticity to it because it’s written by a bonafide fire-fighter, John Kenny. Kenny is Canadian, not Australian, but that doesn’t matter because fire respects no boundaries or artificial borders.
“Interesting,” you say with a yawn. “But choosing to read a book about fire is hardly serendipty!”
“Indeed,” I say, with a smirk. “But reading an article by Kenny that describes the reality of fire – the day after finishing his book – is.”
The article in question was written for Indies Unlimited, under the ‘getting it right’ banner. These articles provide writers with much needed information so their descriptions etc ring true. But this authenticity can also be valuable to those of us who have never come face to face with a real fire – in the bush or anywhere else for that matter. Let me give you a sample of what Kenny wrote :
‘The theatre manager told us we would have to leave if we couldn’t be quiet. A group of fellow firefighters and I were howling with laughter as we watched “Backdraft”. Kurt Russell was dashing through a blazing inferno, coat open, boots rolled down and with no breathing apparatus.
Even the rawest recruit knew that in real life Russell would be dead two steps in.’
I remember that movie, and I think it has coloured how I imagine a blazing fire ever since. However when Kenny continued on to describe the smoke in a real fire, all the news reports about Black Saturday suddenly clunked into place. You see, somehow I hadn’t really believed that a bushfire could turn day into night….
You’ll find the link to the whole of Kenny’s article at the end of this post, and I’d recommend EVERYONE read it, but first I’d like to say a few things about Kenny’s novel.
1. It is not some dry memoir full of facts, with the barest nod to story. It’s not a memoir at all. The Spark is a tight, well told story with a great plot that will keep you reading because you won’t be able to sleep until you know what happens next!
2. The characters in The Spark are not action heroes. They are not cookie cutouts. They are not there just to push the story along. Even the most minor characters have depth and personality while the major ones are people you would love to know in real life. Well, maybe not all of them. Let’s just say the villains of the piece are people who could exist, and probably do, but you really, really wouldn’t want to mess with them.
3. The story is not formulaic. Like life itself, the story depicted in The Spark does not have a perfect ending. But it’s the only ending that fits.
4. Despite being a debut novel, The Spark is beautifully written, with just the right balance between scene setting, action and introspection.
In short, The Spark is one hell of a good book even though it isn’t science fiction. 🙂 Read it people!
And now for that link :