Spacewalker Piers Sellers is seen attached to the end of the orbital boom sensor system as he tests the stability of the work platform in this view from NASA TV July 8, 2006. The first spacewalk slated for the shuttle Discovery crew on Saturday may be one small step for NASA, but a giant leap for the two men trying to discover if the spindly 100-foot (30-metre) boom can put distant parts of the spaceship within reach for emergency repairs. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/NASA TV (UNITED STATES)

Review: World’s Most dangerous Jobs

By Paula Reid (Summersdale)

What’s it like to be an astronaut? How do you get to be an undercover cop? How much do you earn as an ice-road trucker?

In this compilation of interviews, Paula Reid asks 21 adrenalin junkies about the incredibly dangerous jobs they do - jobs that she arranges in alphabetical order, from astronaut and avalanche controller to volcanologist and world superbike champion, via bomb-disposal expert, Grand National jockey, rally driver, sniper and storm chaser.

No entry for book-reviewing under B, I couldn’t help noticing (although things can get pretty tasty in this game, I tell you - drop one of those big biographies and you’re looking at a bruised toe).

In the spirit of Top Trumps cards, each career is given ratings for its danger levels, plus the necessary qualifications and salary. Although a few of these dangerous jobs, such as Formula One driver, do offer big bucks to their top practitioners, it quickly becomes very obvious that people do hazardous jobs for the danger, not the money.

Top salary for an emergency paramedic? £27,625 (aroung R361,860). Basic salary of a bomb-disposal expert? £35,000. Maximum salary of a Red Arrows pilot? £44,000.

And the dangers are very real. Let’s not forget that two of the nine Red Arrows pilots lost their lives in separate incidents last year. (Despite that tragic proportion, officially, the most dangerous job in the world is commercial fishing, with an annual death rate of 116 per 100,000.)

I can just about accept that the adrenalin rush of the job could motivate someone to be a stuntperson or a firefighter - but how on earth could anyone want to become a bomb-disposal expert?

Well, that was indeed the boyhood dream of the Army bomb-disposal chap interviewed here - but I still don’t know the reason because the whys and wherefores are left unexplored.

That bomb-disposal expert is identified here only as “Colonel S”. In his case, and that of the undercover cop, described here as “*****”, the lack of ID is understandable.

But for some unfathomable reason all the other interviewees are similarly identified only by a coy forename. Why this partial anonymity for “John” the avalanche controller, or “Dave” the firefighter, or “Lisa” the ice-road trucker? And why should the astronaut be named as “Piers” when he’s also introduced as Dr Piers Sellers, or the Formula One driver be called only “Johnny” when it’s barkingly obvious that the interviewee can only be Johnny Herbert?

The forename-only signoffs are one of several weird or inadequate features of this little book - a shame because the basic idea is terrific and the potential for hair-raising chills and thrills enormous. Sadly, Paula Reid lacks the panache and expertise in her authorship that her interviewees all show in their careers. Too often these accounts are, despite the material, repetitive and boring - somehow she makes even Piers Sellers’s space-walks seem ho-hummishly humdrum.

Which is even stranger than a little boy dreaming that one day he will become a bomb-disposal officer. - Daily Mail