"A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back"

Feb 24, 2016

On this edition of ST, we speak with Kevin Hazzard, a California-based writer who formerly worked as a paramedic. Indeed, he has a compelling new book out that details his adventures in the EMS trade, and that book is the focus of our discussion: "A Thousand Naked Strangers" was published last month by Scribner. As was noted of this work in a Publishers Weekly review: "Readers should fasten their seatbelts for this wild ride with former paramedic Hazzard as he navigates Atlanta's seedier side from 2004 to 2013, while tending to a memorable -- and gory -- array of patients who teeter between life and death. Emergency medical service is 'reality distilled and boiled down to its essence,' he writes, 'and unlike the general public, I'm invited.' Hazzard possesses lifesaving skills and an adrenaline-fueled bravado to match. After graduating at the top of his EMT class, he gets a job with an ambulance company staffed by a 'misfit circus' of 'EMS cast-offs.' He rides with partners who are driven, dedicated, and potentially dangerous, and he responds to drug overdoses, a faked suicide, and a man being devoured by a cancer he no longer wants to fight. Hazzard's decision to finally quit a career marked by its pursuit of 'life's darker edges' comes with the realization that he's learned numerous lifesaving tricks, but it's not the medicine he cherishes: 'I miss the sense of duty, of honor, of humor, the sense of having lost myself somewhere, somehow, in a very strange world.' Hazzard's unblinking view of chaos is not for weak stomachs, but it's variously raw, poetic, and profoundly hopeful."