REVIEW: SIREN CALL
Review by Megan Kopp
It takes someone with personal experience – or excellent research skills – to write a book about a field so intricate and exciting as emergency response. Even better is someone who has both, and that’s Graeme Pole. A Primary Care Paramedic for 27 years, Pole explores the lives of emergency responders in Banff National Park in his latest work of fiction, Siren Call.
Early morning peak baggin’ or late night return, good weather or bad, in the backcountry, on the road or even in town – we’ve all seen our fair share of crazy mishaps while tripping in the Rocky Mountains. Things don’t always end well. Emergency Medical Technician William Marshall, or ‘Marsh’ to his friends, has seen everything in his 12-year career with Mountain EMS in Banff – from road crashes, and heart attacks to overdoses and climbing accidents. He’s become a response machine with an impressive, although sometimes unconventional, track record. Marsh is the central player in Graeme Pole’s recent fictional novel, Siren Call, from Mountain Vision Publishing.
Breaking through the verbal sparring between out-of-touch manager Pat Lemay and Marsh, walks Miranda Walker, a new hire. Not only is Miri dumped into the chaotic world of an underfunded and understaffed rural emergency medical service, she quickly learns that for her new partner Marsh that life is work. He teaches, she watches, and then begins to slowly question his methods and motivation. There is no denying Marsh has his finger on the pulse of medical response, but what drives his compulsion to occasionally work outside the box is a puzzle waiting to be solved.
It is Marsh’s unconventional approach that has medical director Conrad Hite raking him over the coals more than once. It is Marsh’s strong convictions that create friction with another, less-than-stellar co-worker. And it is Marsh’s choice to see nothing beyond baseball and beer outside of work that has Miri working hard to bring him back to life lived to the fullest.
Siren Call is a testament to the men and women who provide emergency response in a rural centre. Most respond with care, compassion, and authority. Every one of them reacts differently to the stresses of the job. There are some who may abuse the system. There are others who find release in physical tests of endurance. Some bury their stress. For Marsh, it’s the people who matter – whether it’s an innocent child drowned in a local lake, a homeless man with mental health issues, or a 91-year-old palliative transport who could use an adventure outside of the norm.
Siren Call is fiction based on knowledge garnered from almost three decades of service. Graeme Pole is an Emergency Responder and a Primary Care Paramedic in northern British Columbia. The glossary of medical terminology at the back of the book comes in handy. Pole has also spent decades in the mountains, and his ability to pull from this experience strengthens his work. Pole’s descriptive voice comes out clear and strong in scenes dealing with emergency responses – the bickering and bantering of crews, the moments where personal traumas are shared.
One small stumbling point I have with Siren Call is the secondary storyline of paramedic Bryce Armstrong, first introduced in the prologue. The scenes highlight the risks and rewards of mountain adventures, taking the reader along with stunningly realistic prose. At first, it seemed like a device for building suspense, but it never seemed to reach the big finale. Without giving away the storyline, it would have been stronger for this side story to have an epic finish rather than fizzle out.
All the same, Siren Call is an escape into a different reality. It will have you hoping that if you are ever in need of a medic, it will be someone like William Marshall taking the call.
We’re giving away two copies of Siren Call! To enter, hop over to our Facebook Page to comment on or ‘like’ this post before Dec. 20, 2016.
Megan Kopp is a freelance writer and blogger who writes regularly about her two favourite things: outdoor adventure and travel.