Cottam, Francis 1957-
COTTAM, Francis 1957-
PERSONAL: Born 1957, in Liverpool, England.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Charles Walker, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA, England.
AWARDS, HONORS: W. H. Smith, Literature Award for The Fire Fighter, 2002.
The Fire Fighter, Chatto and Windus (London, England), 2001, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Francis Cottam's first book, The Fire Fighter, recreates the terror of London in 1940 during World War II. The book is set in the middle of nightly air-raids and mayhem.
Amid London's depressing reality, the hero of the book is Jack Finlay, an artilleryman called home from Africa to work for British intelligence. His new job is to protect possible targets from the Germans. Because of his history as a fireman, his shady past is overlooked in favor of safeguarding five buildings in London. As he struggles to protect the buildings, however, he finds his murky, Liverpool history under scrutiny, after all. Meanwhile, a love story develops. The German godchild of his wartime military boss, Rebecca Lange, is a mysterious beauty who, David Horspool noted in his Times Literary Supplement review, Finlay predictably falls for. The love plot thickens to include an Irishman from Rebecca's past, with whom Finlay must fight for her affections.
Horspool appreciated Cottam's depiction of World War II London, and pointed out that even after the Allies' victory, the characters keep their somber outlook. But he also noted that the central characters detract from the more exciting background of the story. By focusing on Finlay, a thin, empty character, and, even worse, on the shallowly "mysterious" Rebecca, "Cottam robs the novel of much of its impact," Horspool commented. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also felt that Cottam spends too much time on his protagonists' personal lives, but suggested that, given Cottam's atmosphere creation and action scenes, readers can look forward to Cottam's future work.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of The Fire Fighter, p. 680.
Library Journal, June 1, 2002, review of The Fire Fighter, p. 194.
Publishers Weekly, July 22, 2002, review of The Fire Fighter, p. 159.
Times Literary Supplement, April 13, 2001, David Horspool, review of The Fire Fighter, p. 23.*