Synopses & Reviews
Novelist Shannon Burke earned stunning reviews for his debut book, Safelight, and now he returns with the same minimalist intensity in this arresting follow-up. Black Flies is the story of paramedic Ollie Cross and his first year on the job in mid-90s New York. In the midst of the crack wars, unemployment and neighborhoods burning to the ground as delinquent landlords cash in, Ollie transforms into a callous EMS. On a job with a premature baby who is possibly brain damaged and HIV positive, Ollie and his partner allow the infant to die and claim it was stillborn. When they are found out, his partner is removed from active service and eventually commits suicide. Ollie must accept what he's done and try to make up for it if he's to pull through and become a competent paramedic.
"Gunshot wounds, crack pipes and rotting corpses abound in this raw and fascinating novel about Harlem paramedics in the mid-1990s, the second novel from former EMT Burke. Oliver Cross graduated from Northwestern as a middle-class do-gooder. But he and his partner, Rutkovsky, a jaded Vietnam veteran and one of the city's best medics, see enough massive trauma to put Cross on the fast track to deep disillusionment. Of the bizarre, tragic and often shocking emergencies encountered during Cross's rookie tenure, the crisis comes when he and Rutkovsky respond to a call from an abandoned building where a crack-addicted, HIV-positive mother has just given birth to a premature baby, and their handling of the mother and child believed to be stillborn will alter the course of both men's lives. Burke is a poet of trauma, and his expert, macabre portrayal takes its toll on the reader just as the job takes its toll on Cross." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Novelist Shannon Burke earned stunning reviews for his debut book, Safelight, and now he returns with the same minimalist intensity in this arresting follow-up. Black Flies is the story of paramedic Ollie Cross and his first year on the job in mid-'90s New York. It is a ground's eye view of life on the streets: the shoot-outs, the bad cops, unhinged medics, the hopeless patients, the dark humor in bizarre circumstances, and one medic's struggle to balance his desire to help against his own growing callousness. It is the story of lives that hang in the balance, and of a single job with a misdiagnosed newborn that sends Cross and his partner into a life-changing struggle between good and evil.