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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hazardous Material - Review & Interview

Welcome to my blog Kurt.  Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself and your latest book. 

Q. Tell us about your latest worktitle, genre, etc. and why you wrote it?
A.  Hazardous Material - This is the fourth in a series of Firefighter mysteries. Each novel deals with a different discipline in firefighting (wildland/ arson/paramedic/hazardous material). Each book brings together two mysteries—one fire related, and one connected to the personal life of the protagonist.

This title is a play on words. The protagonist, Bucky, deals with hazardous materials in his job. He is also dealing with an addiction to the painkiller Percocet, and while searching for his sister, is drawn into a confrontation with an outlaw motorcycle gang that runs a meth lab in the Mojave Desert. The conflict also leads to poisoned desert tortoises and a NASA scientist using nanoparticles. The story is filled with hazardous materials.

Q.   What draws you to your genre(s)? Why is this type of story compelling to you?
A.   I have access to the Los Angeles County and Ventura County fire departments, and spend considerable time with them responding to incidents. I find the life and mentality of firefighters (and related first responders) fascinating. These are brave (but not foolish) people who run toward danger when everyone else is running away. They are incredibly well trained and disciplined. 
I have had good success creating stories that connect their personal lives with their profession.  As an aside, you can't imagine how much fun it is riding in the engines, flying in the helicopters, and getting a first-hand view of a wide range of emergencies

Q.  What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out or do you just let it unfold?  What kind of research was involved?
A.  Once I decide on a new subject (I am currently working on a USAR—urban search and rescue—novel), then I spend several months with the appropriate firefighters. I usually have a vague notion of my mysteries and I let the action and reality around me get me started. 
Once I start writing, my characters take over, and I am just the scribe. Sometimes they do things I don't like, and often get themselves into difficult situations, which requires my intervention to rescue them. Sometimes they can't be rescued. 
Some writers outline every chapter before starting to write. I have tried, and am incapable of doing that.

Q.   How much of YOU makes it into your characters?
A.   I guess my fatalistic view and dark sense of humor is common to most of my main characters. Otherwise, they stand alone.

Q.   How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family, society, etc.?
A.   I am fortunate to be retired (from the financial world and as a masters bicycle racer) and have as much time as I want to write.

Q.   Have there been any authors in particular, that inspired your writing?
A.   James Salter – spare, beautiful writing.

Q.   Is there a story you want to tell behind or about your work(s)?
A.   I simply want to entertain my reader. I get e-mails from firefighters who love my books, and that's a great satisfaction, because firefighters are not readers.

Every time someone reads one of my books, the cause of literacy is advanced.

Q.  What other projects are you currently working on or about to start?
A.  *I am working on book number 5

*I am about to do some book promotion on Hazardous Material at the California State Fire Fighter's HazMat conference.

* I am about to do a book signing at a law enforcement conference dealing with motorcycle gangs.

*Waiting to hear whether a French publisher is going to translate CODE BLOOD

That's enough.

Q.  Could you share some of your marketing strategies?  Which ones are the most effective in your opinion?
A.  Tough question, things that worked last year, don't seem to work now. As a moderately successful author, I think you have to try everything. I have had great success on Facebook creating an audience of 4500 first responder friends. Network. Communicate with anyone and everyone. Reviews can't hurt. Don't be afraid to give books to people who are in a position to read and comment on them.

Q.  What would be the top five, (or 3 or 1 or however many) things you would tell aspiring authors?
1.        Enter contests

2.      Get as many reviews as possible

3.      Align yourself with an organization or group that relates to the topic of your book. If you can keep on topic for successive books it will help your connections

4.      You MUST have your book edited professionally. Your uncle Sam cannot do it

5.      You will get what you pay for in cover design

6.      MOST IMPORTANT – GET SELF SATISFACTION OUT OF YOUR WRITING. Enjoy what you are doing, because that may be all the gratification and recognition you ever get.

Again, thanks Kurt for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. We appreciate you and your work.

Good luck with your current and future publications.


Hazardous Material is Kurt Kamm's fourth novel.  The book begins with a 'bang'.  A big  explosion in a trailer outside Lancaster, California.  Inside the trailer are crooks and addicts preparing methamphetamine.  The main character, Bucky Dawson a fire fighter, member of HazMat (Hazardous Materials) Squad 129 gets called to the explosion of the meth lab.  Bucky discovers his sisters involvement with the meth lab and terrifying motorcycle gangs. In his attempt to discover what has happened to his sister, Bucky has to confront the violent side of the bikers and his own addiction to pain killers.  The story is action packed to the end.

Kurt Kamm has created the novel Hazardous Material from well researched facts.  His connection and knowledge of the various fire departments and hazardous materials response teams, and law enforcement of California is evident in his writing.  Methamphetamine and outlaw motorcycle gangs are described in vivid and realistic detail.  As the story progresses Kurt paints a picture of his main character, Bucky a HazMat firefighter, as a 'real' person with flaws, and a strange ability.  He has an usual sense of smell that, among other things, helps in the detection of drug labs.  Detective Miguel "Mike" Ortiz of the North County Narcotics Squad, best friend of Bucky, is Bucky's only real friend  and help throughout the novel.  Kamm pulls together creativity and facts as seen in the 'Dwarf' leader of the Vagos biker gang and Dubkova a scientist with an interesting twist to his role.  An interesting and informative book for all.

This is the first of Kurt Kamm's novels I've read and not the last.  The title, location and aerospace technology, were my main interest in reading the book.  Kamm gets straight into the essence of the story in chapter one.  For those who have no knowledge or understanding of drugs and addicts, the details and pictures the author paints are an education.  The balance and care Kurt has given to his descriptions of the various departments of Los Angeles as part of the story are excellent.  Not being familiar with 'biker's' groups or gangs, I found the details Kamm provides, illuminating.  An excellent read that informs as well as entertains.

About Author

Malibu resident Kurt Kamm has used his contact with CalFire, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and the ATF, as well as his experience in several devastating local wildfires, to write fact-based firefighter mystery novels. He has attended classes at El Camino Fire Academy and trained in wildland firefighting, arson investigation and hazardous materials response. He is also a graduate of the ATF Citizens Academy. He is currently riding with Los Angeles County Fire Departments famed Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 2/USA-2, and is working on a USAR mystery.

One of the Malibu fires, the 60 mile-per-hour Santa Ana wind-driven Canyon Fire, burned to his front door and destroyed the homes of several neighbors. Kamm said the lessons he learned from the County Fire Department while writing his first book helped him save his home.

A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School, Kamm was previously a financial executive and semi-professional bicycle racer. He was also Chairman of the UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation and is an avid supporter of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

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