Shocked by a five-month arson spree that left rural Virginia reeling, Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse drove down to Accomack County to cover the trial of Charlie Smith, who pled guilty to 67 counts of arson. But Charlie wasn't lighting fires alone: he had an accomplice - his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick. Through her depiction of the dangerous shift that happened in their passionate relationship, Hesse brilliantly brings to life the once-thriving coastal community and its distressed inhabitants, who had already been decimated by a punishing economy before they were terrified by a string of fires they could not explain.
Incorporating this drama into the long-overlooked history of arson in the United States, American Fire re-creates the anguished nights that this quiet county spent lit up in flames, mesmerizingly evoking a microcosm of rural America - a land half gutted before the fires even began.
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