June 2007

Sarah Statz

nonfiction

Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home by Gil Reavill

If the very thought of blood and all the diseases it can carry is enough to set all of your skin to crawling, then Gil Reavill’s book Aftermath, Inc., is not the book for you.
 
If, on the other hand, you’re watching the entire run of the television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on DVD, primarily because you’re in love with Gil Grissom, but also because you’re fascinated by the crime storylines and its pop culture version of science and forensic investigation (which I may or may not be doing), this will in fact be the book for you. A crime writer for publications like Maxim, Village Voice, and Penthouse, Gil Reavill leaves no gory detail untold, no victim or clean-up technician’s characters unprofiled, and he does it all with a certain morbid flair.
 
Reavill wastes no time displaying his crime-writing chops; in the first chapter he recreates the murders which created one of the messier crime scenes that the “bioremediation” company Aftermath, Inc., would become responsible for remediating. As Reavill writes it, Tommy Johnson’s murder at the hands of Nick Mazilli is not a narrative for the faint of heart: “The fusillade of bullets tore through Johnson’s body, ripping apart the carpet beneath him and blowing cavities into the concrete underfloor below.  Blood, bits of flesh and bone fragments exploded everywhere.” Nor are the scenes of quieter deaths necessarily neater: “The body fluids had drained from the deceased onto the floorboards onto the subflooring, then through the subflooring to dribble down the floor joists and drop onto a chest of drawers in the basement.”
 
That’s about as bad as it gets, I promise, and if you can handle scenes like that, you’re actually in for a fascinating read, which includes narrations of actual cleaning procedures, but also surprisingly nuanced interviews with the company’s founders. Also explored are the work lives of the techs who do the clean-ups, often working in pairs and based in specific geographic locations designed to provide coverage for multi-state regions. Those who have died also merit surprisingly gentle treatment from Reavill, as when he interviews family members of a gentleman whose greatest love in life was a rare 1910 35mm nitrate print of the silent film Frankenstein, filmed by Thomas Alva Edison. 
 
Reavill also covers the medical bases, explaining the reasons for and the challenges of wearing Tyvek containment suits, as well as some rather important reasons for calling in expert companies like Aftermath, chief among them the hepatitis C and HIV viruses. Grisly deaths aren’t all the company cleans up after, either; one of the most frequent types of “nonlethals” are methamphetamine lab remediations, which Aftermath employees particularly revile because “too many fucking things can go wrong.” 
 
It’s a fast read, and you may start forgetting it as soon as you’re done reading it (which is not all bad). Yes, a large part of the book is about how people die; but the larger truth of this book is how life pauses, cleans up what it can, and goes on. 
 
Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home, by Gil Reavill
Penguin
ISBN-13: 978-1-592-40296-0
304 pages