An EMS memoir can take any form, but there are usually only two.
1) The Newbie enters strange new world of EMS, struggles to prove self, and in the end makes good.
2) The Old Dinosaur looks back on his career, telling tales, etc.
Sometimes the two are combined together.
In the nonfiction books, the medics often portray themselves as “aw, shucks, Iâ€™m not a hero, but the people I work with are” kind of guys. In general they shine a light on the profession as a noble one.
EMS fiction, both in movies and novels, seem to take another form — burned out paramedics do crazy shit. See Bringing Out the Dead, Broken Vessels and the excellent novel Black Flies.
My first EMS nonfiction book, Paramedic: On the Front Lines of Medicine took the first track. I wrote about becoming a paramedic and gradually feeling like I belonged. My second book, Rescue 471: A Paramedic’s Stories, was a continuation of the first, with just the slightest hints of a darker side.
My first EMS novel, Mortal Men, while about grander themes (a retelling of the The Illiad transplanted to Hartford EMS), did have as one of the main characters — a burned out paramedic doing crazy shit.
In the last year I have read two EMS memoirs. Lights and Sirens, (which I reviewed here), follows the traditional course. The author, Kevin Grange, is a good guy, and the people he works with as he goes through his paramedic internship are portrayed as true heroes underneath their hard shells.
The other memoir, Diamond in the Rough (soon to be published), is much more troubling (and quite out of character for an EMS memoir), although I feel it is no less authentic. Its author, who worked EMS in the Northeast over a decade ago, is unfortunately no longer living. The manuscript was given to me by his mother, who begged me to seek a publisher. Containing elements of both the Newbie and Old Dinosaur archetypes, it is nevertheless a no holds barred journey through urban EMS by someone who does not always represent EMS well. There is some serious crazy shit in it. And while some of what I have read was horrifying to me, and certainly will be to the general public, the authorâ€™s story is quite moving, and ultimately, I believe, redeeming.
The manuscript, which needed a great deal of editorial work, including removing a number of gratuitous sex scenes and tempering some of its profane language, is soon to be published as a novel by Dystel/Goderich (who published Mortal Men), in the e-book format available on all platforms. It should be out soon.
In the meantime, order Mortal Men Today.
Mortal Men: Paramedics on the Streets of Hartford