Tell Me Exactly What Happened
By Caroline Burau. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 184 pages, $16.95.)
In her second memoir for the MHS Press about working as a police dispatcher, Caroline Burau is snappy, compassionate and funny. And she really needs to pee.
Burau was police and fire dispatcher for White Bear Lake, working one-person shifts that were either draggingly quiet or ridiculously, impossibly busy — no time for bathroom breaks, and no one to cover for her.
Later, she went to work as a dispatcher for an ambulance service. In this fast-paced, sassy book, she tells about the phone calls she fields in both jobs: the pneumonia case that was actually an ammonia leak (she misheard), the bomb threats, the shootings, the children. Oh, the children will break your heart.
She is fiercely loyal to the police and firefighters, acknowledging that some are jerks and some are racist but maintaining that most are dedicated to the job. They “could just encounter an active shooter and be required, in that moment, to sacrifice” their lives. “For about two bucks more an hour than what I make. I’ll take the pay cut.”
Burau’s book launch will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul. She will also read and sign books at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 at Lake Country Booksellers, White Bear Lake.
Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away
By Ben Utecht, with Mark Tabb. (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, 256 pages, $26.)
Concussions ended Ben Utecht’s career in professional football, sending him home after four seasons as a tight end with the NFL and four as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. In his memoir, “Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away” (written with Mark Tabb), Utecht writes about growing up in Minnesota, playing for the U, being signed by the Indianapolis Colts, earning a Super Bowl ring in 2006, moving over to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Utecht is a preacher’s son, and his is a sincere and sentimental book. He proposed to his future wife by burying a ring in a cup of rose petals. They remained abstinent until their wedding night. He wept when his wife told him she was pregnant. He’s a total sap when it comes to his four daughters.
But the meat of the book is the brutal concussions he suffered while playing the game, and their long-term effects. “From out of nowhere the other safety came flying in … and targeted my head, spearing me in the helmet with his helmet. My head violently snapped to the side … I thought I had broken my neck,” he writes. “I blacked out.”
A blow he took in August 2009 during Bengals training camp (a blow that aired on the HBO show “Hard Knocks”) ended his career. The linebacker’s helmet “came up under my facemask and hit me on the chin like a Muhammad Ali uppercut.” Utecht was strapped to a backboard and sent off in an ambulance; he never played again.
Utecht is not a great writer and this is not a deep book, but he’s passionate about the perils of football. He has served as a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology and has testified before Congress about concussion issues. His book will give you pause the next time you sit down to watch a game.
Utecht will sign books at 5 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Mall of America.