A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.
Thoroughly intimidated at first and frequently terrified, he experienced on a nightly basis the adrenaline rush of walking into chaos. But in his downtime, Kevin reflected on how people’s facades drop away when catastrophe strikes. As his hours on the job piled up, he realized he was beginning to see into the truth of things. There is no pretense five beats into a chest compression, or in an alley next to a crack den, or on a dimly lit highway where cars have collided. Eventually, what had at first seemed impossible happened: Kevin acquired mastery. And in the process he was able to discern the professional differences between his freewheeling peers, what marked each—as he termed them—as “a tourist,” “true believer,” or “killer.”
Combining indelible scenes that remind us of life’s fragile beauty with laugh-out-loud moments that keep us smiling through the worst, A Thousand Naked Strangers is an absorbing read about one man’s journey of self-discovery—a trip that also teaches us about ourselves.
Kevin Hazzard worked as a paramedic from 2004 to 2013, primarily at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. His freelance journalism has appeared in Atlanta Magazine, Marietta Daily Journal, Creative Loafing, and Paste. He is the author of a novel, Sleeping Dogs, and A Thousand Naked Strangers. He and his family live in Hermosa Beach, California.
“Action-packed…With blunt language and a raw narrative tone rich with gruesome detail, Hazzard immerses readers in the bloody, hardened reality of an emergency response team racing to accident scenes....[Features] anecdotes both thrilling and startlingly gory…A vivid, pummeling ride-along.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Hazzard’s unblinking view of chaos is not for weak stomachs, but it’s variously raw, poetic, and profoundly hopeful.” —Publishers Weekly
“A thrilling, captivating, and sometimes grisly glimpse into what it takes to be a first responder in the city of Atlanta. Hazzard’s prose is quick, witty, and fresh…This frank and morbidly funny memoir…takes readers on a wild and unforgettable ride.” —Booklist
“A shocking, utterly compelling tour de force that shows the dark heart of an Atlanta that I never knew existed…I couldn’t let the book go—it’s powerful enough to have turned me into an ambulance chaser in my own small South Carolina town, but it’s also very, very funny.” —Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini
“No one has a closer view into our fearful hearts than the paramedic, and no one writes it like Kevin Hazzard. He's given us a deep intimate portrait of the toll it takes to every day witness our most vulnerable moments.” —Joe Connelly, author of Bringing Out the Dead
“Hazzard observes keenly, remembers faithfully, but also struggles to analyze his motives for loving those crazy nights on the bad side of town when the universe slips a gear and all hell breaks loose.” —J.Michael Lennon, author of the authorized biography Norman Mailer
“More tragic andhorrifying, but also more comical, than can be imagined.” —Katrina Firlik, author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe
“As absorbing as it is revealing.” —Bob Drury, coauthor of The Heart of Everything There Is
“Buckle up and prepare for an eye-opening plunge into barely controlled chaos.” —Judy Melinek, M.D., coauthor of Working Stiff
“Get ready to feel the gun-slinging, God-like power of running calls in the back of an ambulance.” —Julie Holland, M.D., author of Weekends at Bellevue
“Take a terrific writer and put him in tragic, frantic, emotional, heartbreaking and freaking situations for years—you get A Thousand Naked Strangers…This book is one long rush.” —Phillip Jennings, author of Nam-a-Rama and Goodbye Mexico
“An unstoppable adrenaline rush with lyrical moments of truth and beauty.” —Theresa Brown, author of Critical Care