In 1969, a secret government agency called The Shop, made experiments with a chemical drug called Lot Six. Lot Six altered the chromosomes on the test subjects, to experiment with psychokinetic powers, such as telekinesis. Two of the test subjects, Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson fell in love, and later married. They had a child, who they named Charlie, who was born with multiple abilities, including Pyrokinesis, the ability to start fires with her mind.
Eight years later, Andy and Charlie flee across America, constantly looking for sanctuary from a group of government agents from The Shop, who are trying to find them, capture them, and harness their powers for the military. Charlie and Andy flee from New York to Albany hitching a ride in a taxi and later to a motel in Hastings Glen where they spend the night. With The Shop on their heels, Charlie and Andy leave the motel and hitch a ride provided by Irv Manders who promises to take them closer to St Johnsbury. Under the aliases, Roberta and Frank stay for lunch at the farm provided by Norma Manders. The couple already aware of the police search is suspicious whether Charlie may or may not have been held against her will by Andy. Irv, however, realizes there is a different story to it. But before he can be convinced by Andy, The Shop shows up at farm. Irv gets shot. To protect her father, Charlie sets The Shop agents on fire, the farm burning along with them. In Irvs Willys' Jeep, Charlie and Andy take off to Vermont. In Washington, John Rainbird extracts every piece of information out of Dr. Wanless about Charlie McGee. Then he kills him. Two days later Charlie and Andy arrive at the cottage in Tashmore Pond. The provisions untouched they settle down for the night. They even stay for winter where Andy crosses the frozen pond into the city to buy clothes and food. At the end of winter he decides its time to write to the newspapers. But The Shop gets to the letters first.
In a flashback to 1980 Andy experiences an odd feeling at work and goes home. There he finds his wife Vicky, dead at the hands of The Shop. For some time they had been aware of taps on their phones and people watching them, but he had not expected it would come to this. Andy pursues the kidnappers of his daughter and finds her at a rest stop where he uses his abilities to incapacitate them, then taking Charlie to safety. Andy slowly regains his powers and initiates an escape attempt. Rainbird figures out the plan and stops them, killing Andy in the process. Grief turns to fury as Charlie uses her now perfected pyrokinesis to battle her way out of the compound, killing many, and destroying much of the compound in the process. After spending time with a couple that had previously sheltered them, Charlie flees again, just as Shop agents discover her location, once again staying one step ahead of The Shop, and goes to the Rolling Stone magazine to give an interview telling her story, because she sees it as an "unbiased source with no ties to the government".
Charlie McGee: Daughter of Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson. She has the abilities of pyrokinesis which makes her a firestarter. She is on the run from the men of The Shop that want to capture her and her father.
Andy McGee: He is the father of Charlie. He is on the run from the men from The shop that want to capture him and his daughter. He took part of the experiment by Dr. Wanless that offered two hundred for its volunteers, where subject would be given a small doze of Lot Six.
Joseph Wanless: He was in charge of the experiment where he gave doze of Lot Six to twelve subjects, which included Andy McGee and his future wife Vicky Tomlinson. He was know by the student in 1969 as the Mad Doctor.
Cab Driver: He pick ups Andy and Charlie who were fleeing from two men in business suits (The Shop) who were chasing after them. He was deceived by Andy with a mental image in which the two men were chasing a black guy in a checkered cap when the two men yelled to be with the police. He gave any his opinion that black people are junkies in New York City after believing Andy's deception. Andy uses his mind again to control and deceive the driver with a fake five-hundred dollar bill, after realizing the driver to be a pushover. He is revealed to have a girlfriend named Glynis "Glyn" who believes that driving a taxi was a dismal and unexciting job.
Skycap: He is in charge in carrying people’s bags at an airport. He watched Andy and Charlie come and go in the airport and thought that it was a pure sin that a parent and his child were there. He believed that a child should be in bed at nighttime and parents who have their children with them at such time should be sterilized. He was busy unloading suitcases from the trunk of a car when Andy and Charlie left the airport from a different door. As a result, he didn't see them go out. After forty minutes later, the two men from The Shop chasing Andy and charlie arrived and told the skycap about the situation.
Eddie Delgrado: He is a soldier who was talking to the phone with his girlfriend Sally Bradford in the moment charlie was stealing coins from the phone booth. He was making excuses to girlfriend which Charlie deem him as trying to trick his girlfriend in order for him to stand his girlfriend up. After he left the phone booth, he had daydream about his revenge of love and resentment towards his girlfriend until he felt his feet warm to suddenly be on fire, which Charlie caused because of the conversation she overheard. He sprinted across the concourse until going inside the women's room in which he scared a young woman. He placed his feet inside the toilet until two security guards burst in the women's room which asked for them to wait. He was led out of the women's room carrying his burn shoes and with his uniform gone below his knees by the security guards into the office.
Deceased or Mentioned Characters
Quincey Tremont: The former roommate of Andy McGee in college and former Psych major. He convinced Andy to be part of the experiment by Dr. Wanless that offered two hundred for its volunteers. This was done due to Andy's financial situation, but he warms Andy that Wanless is a Mad Doctor and also a behaviorist. He did not take part in the experiment due to hating needles and not needing the money.
Vicky Tomlinson: The wife of Andy McGee and the mother of Charlie McGee. She decided to be part of the experiment by Dr. Wanless after her friend got fifty dollars in one of the experiments last semester. She was aware of Wanless reputation of Mad Doctor and still agreed to take part in the experiment even after her former boyfriend, George warned to be out. She had died when she was confronted with the men of The Shop.
Mrs. Mishkin: The second-grade teacher of Charlie. She let out Charlie with some "friends" of Andy, when the "friends" brought a note from Andy.
George: The former boyfriend of Vicky Tomlinson before she met Andy McGee. He was in one of Wanless's classes and the Psych Department. He had forbidden Vicky to take part in the Wanless experiment, which she ignored. He didn't tell her anything about Wanless experiment only the fact that he didn't trust Wanless.
The story was adapted into a film in 1984, with a made-for-television, sequel Firestarter 2: Rekindled, following in 2002. A television series called The Shop is also planned as a sequel of Firestarter.
The audiobook version of Firestarter is read by Dennis Boutsikaris.
- The book Firestarter is very similar to the Netflix series Stranger Things. It is confirmed in the book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down that The Duffer Brothers took inspiration from Firestarter, along with the books Carrie, The Dead Zone, The Body, The Shining and It.
- A doctor and minor character in the book shares his name with It character, Patrick Hockstetter. This likely means nothing though and it is almost certain the two aren’t related in any way nor are they intended to be the same person.
- Gardener tells Bobbi about a girl who burned down The Shop in The Tommyknockers.
In this novel, The Shop also takes control of aliens.
- The Shop is involved in the Arrowhead Project , which resulted in the titular supernatural disaster of The Mist .
- The Shop is mentioned in "The Langoliers", Bob Jenkins throws the name into the hat as the time-displaced characters attempt to solve the mystery of their situation.