- Paperback: 200 pages
- Published: 6/1/03
- IBSN: 9781888451436
- Genre: Fiction
Life is teetering on the edge of the apocalypse in and around the tiny Washington State coastal community that occupies the center of Firewater, a posthumously released, brutally funny environmental suspense novel.
“A comic, surrealistic response to a very real problem: the collusion of government and big business to create ‘the science of death and the death of science . . . a monoculture of death . . . A wild romp.”
“Eccentric, hilarious . . . This may not be the first environmental novel, but it’s the first one that produces belly laughs.”
—Mary Bringle, author of Murder Most Gentrified
“All the feeling of Abbey in the words of Bukowski.”
“From Bhopol to Chernobyl, from Love Canal to the polluted oyster flats of the Northwest, Edward Cohen wards off depression by rapping the funny bone. Here, where paranoia is no longer a disease, but a given of the human condition, Ed Cohen’s hyperbolic imagination is an irreverent tonic.”
—John Gardiner, author of Great Dream From Heaven
A selection of the Akashic Rural Surreal Series.
Life is teetering on the edge of the apocalypse in and around the tiny Washington State coastal community that occupies the center of Firewater, a posthumously released, brutally funny environmental suspense novel. Contaminated oysters are rotting by the thousands in the mudflats outside the area’s decrepit federal genetic-engineering laboratory, the employees of which have recently been terrorized by their new head scientist, a tyrannical, hygienically challenged, Neo-nazi named William Urbanchuk. Over at the local reservation, rumors are circulating that an elk, the tribal totem, was found beheaded on the side of the highway, and a band of violent mutant dwarves, equipped with automatic weapons and oversized genitals, have been sighted prowling the countryside. On the more distance horizon, towering toxic smog formations, personified by the local inhabitants as “tarbabies,” have begun to shift and lurch ominously over the Cascade Mountains, generating forecasts of acid rain and sudden death.
It’s all in a day’s work for Chief Shelldrake, the local tribal chief—favorite son for the US presidency and last hope for the world’s survival. A perfect anti-hero for the post-apocalypse, Chief Shelldrake is equal parts Ralph Nader (in his zealous environmental activism), Sitting Bull (in his proud tribal loyalties), Huey Long (in his fiery demagogic populism) and William Jefferson Clinton (in his unquenchable appetite for voluptuous young women). The Chief is repeatedly sidetracked in his grassroots campaign to claim the White House and save the planet from impending destruction by the grueling, day-to-day demands of his responsibilities on the reservation, the cunning subversions of his enemies in the current administration, and his own unbridled sensuality. In the end, though, it’s the natural world, in its sacredness, generosity, and ultimate resilience, that is the real hero of Cohen’s novel, surviving the battles of those who fight over its future and leading a remnant of followers toward a new life and new destiny under a moonlit sky. The novel’s colorful characters are brought to life piece by piece in a style that combines the radically democratic spirit and vivid cubist imagery of Paul Goodman, the surreal, jump-cut frenzy of William Burroughs, and the off-centered, episodic perspectives of comic book artists like Robert Crumb and the Brothers Hernandez.
Environmental activist EDWARD STONE COHEN (1937–1999) and his wife Fritzi divided their time between their homes and the small, unique hotels they owned and operated in Washington, DC, and Nahcotta, Washington. The two settings represented the two interrelated poles of Cohen’s personality: his commitment to social change and political activism, and his delight in the wonders of the natural world. A born storyteller, with a scabrous sense of humor and a lifelong fascination in the interconnections between words and ideas, Cohen had been working for years at the time of his death on the “green” novel that he left behind as Firewater.