For decades, the pseudonymous Emery has served as a construction inspector for civilian and military projects around the world. His job is to make sure that all work is done properly according to the specifications in the project’s contract. At first glance, such activity would seem as dry as the dust that hangs in the air at most work sites. But Emery successfully brings this industry to life with his colorful descriptions of construction workers and his interactions with them. In doing so, the attentive author truly fulfills the description set forth in his book’s subtitle. Take, for example, his picture of Scruffy, a sewer cleaner: “Scruffy donned his Michelin-man coveralls, Sopwith-Camel style goggles, and headphone-type hearing protectors. With a couple of ancient and decrepit brick shipyard tool sheds as a backdrop, we could have filmed a Mad Max movie right there.” Emery writes that he initially planned to create a guidebook for young construction inspectors, and there’s still plenty of instructional content here. But after combing through the anecdotes he’d collected through the years, Emery thankfully realized that he had a lot more to put into his book: “It is the unpredictable nature of busy jobsites along with the human element that inherently makes them fascinating.” After a brief section explaining the various roles on a construction site, the author rolls out profiles of a series of composite characters—such “Jerry, The Stressed-Out Project Manager,” “Chad, the Boastful Senior Construction Inspector” and “Carl, the Mentoring Senior Engineer”—while changing their names to protect the guilty. As he tells his stories, he shows a surprisingly deft writing touch for an engineer, and his gift for narrative will propel readers forward. He admirably succeeds in opening up a little-known realm of tiny specifications, huge construction equipment and colorful characters.
A glance behind the construction curtain that unveils how structures are built all around us.