The Fireman - Stephen Leather

The Fireman - Stephen Leather book cover

Other journalists admire and envy the foreign correspondent who is sent on emergency trips to the world's hot spots to cover big, fast-breaking news stories; they call him 'The Fireman', a first-class operator and expert trouble-shooter who moves in, gets the story and moves out - fast, efficient, clean.

But when he's past his glory days, just a second-string reporter on London's crime beat, knocked off the foreign circuit by his own alcoholic benders - when the story is his sister's unexplained fifteen-story fall to her death, the place is the teeming, exotic city of Hong Kong, and the players a gang of vicious Chinese mercenaries, trouble-shooting involves real bullets, and the result is far from clean.

Emotions are messy; good journalists avoid them, expressing in their copy only the cold, hard facts. For this brash reporter, however, his sister's broken body is the only coldness he can feel, and he has no stories to file - only vengeance to take.

His challenge is to uncover the truth about her death, without becoming the next one to take a fall.

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The Fireman is just about my favourite book, it's probably got more of me in it than any other of my thrillers. Like Pay Off, it's written in the first person and the hero is never named.

I was working as Business Editor of the South China Morning Post when I wrote it, and I came in for quite a bit of flack in Hong Kong because it was seen as an anti-Hong Kong book and everyone assumed that's how I felt about the place. They didn't seem to realise that it was character in the book who hated the city, not the author.

I think I captured Hong Kong quite well, and several of the characters in the book are based on people I met there. And lots of things that happened in the book actually happened to me - there's a scene where the hero finds an injured cat and I wrote that the night it happened.

The bit about incest was my editor's idea.... I wasn't happy about putting it in but I was to pleased to be a published author to stand up for myself back then.

The Fireman Reviews

"An up-to-date story of intercontinental, lots of atmosphere" Mail on Sunday

"Excitement is guaranteed." Independent