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February 10, 2010 > Book Review: "Risky Living" by Tom Jones

Book Review: "Risky Living" by Tom Jones

Ah. Another day, another dollar minus taxes, dues, and insurance.

Lately, you feel like you're getting an allowance instead of a paycheck. You find yourself diving for two quarters that fell in your underwear drawer last week, just to have enough for a cappuccino. You're daydreaming about moonlighting, thinking it's time for a new job - or another job - and asking yourself the same question you'd ask a 4-year-old: What do you want to be someday?

Maybe now's the time to be a little frivolous. Maybe now's the time to try on another job by reading "Risky Living" by Tom Jones. But beware - and be careful what you wish for.

As a former suit-wearing 9-to-5er, Tom Jones says that he never knew one of his acquaintances was a U.S. federal marshal who once guarded Saddam Hussein. When he learned the (not-so) secret, it got Jones to thinking: how do some people end up in dangerous, possibly-lethal occupations? He went in search of men and women who got their paychecks in edgy ways.

Say, for instance, that you've planned a three-day trip to Yosemite National Park. For many adventure-seekers, rock climbing (hang-gliding, extreme skiing, BASE jumping) is a great way to spend a weekend. But when disaster strikes, it's the (dangerous) job of the Search & Rescue Team to get people out, safely and alive.

Snapping a picture seems like good work for someone who is creative, but for wildlife photographers, it's not what you snap but whose jaws snap back. One always needs to remember, too, that bushes make a great bathroom as long as a hungry lioness doesn't have the same idea.

As if it's not dangerous enough on Earth, coal miners take their work beneath it. You don't know dark until you've been underground, where oxygen can be in short supply, combustibles literally surround you, and a collapse could bury you alive.
Seem tame? Then try being an alligator hunter or a knife-thrower's assistant. Try guarding prisoners or, yes, try journalism.

Looking for a little change of pace? You might find it here - but then again, many of the careers in "Risky Living" aren't going to be easy to achieve, most needing extensive training. But that's not all I noticed...

Author Tom Jones is faithful to each of his interviewees but some of the stories, in an effort to describe scenarios, got boggy and confusing. An edited version would have gone a long way. Would that have lessened the excitement of the narrative? Maybe, unfortunately.

I also thought it strange to put, say, a delivery guy in the same "dangerous jobs" book as a soldier home from Iraq. Not to negate the fine work done in getting pizza to my house, but do they really compare?

Still, "Risky Living" is a fun book to read; a nice diversion and a peek into the lives of men and women with exciting, often-perilous jobs. If you're curious about how other people earn their paychecks, use a part of yours to get this book.

c.2009, Skyhorse Publishing
$24.95 / $33.95 Canada
397 pages

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