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A Good Forest for Dying: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Warsby Patrick Beach
Synopses & Reviews
Early on a September morning in 1998, David "Gypsy" Chain and eight fellow Earth First! activists went into the redwood forests of Scotia, California. Their loosely organized plan to protest the destruction caused by the logging industry almost immediately turned farcically tragic. A. E. Ammons, a logger for Pacific Lumber, confronted the group, threatening them in an obscenity-ridden diatribe: if they didn't leave "I'll make sure I got a tree comin' this way!" The group retreated, moving deeper into the wilderness. A short time later, just as they were attempting to confront the logger yet again, Gypsy was dead, crushed to death by a tree Ammons felled.
A Good Forest for Dying traces the long history of bitter clashes between environmental concerns and economic interests in the American West and shows why these tensions came to a head in northern California in the 1990s. It tells the story of how Pacific Lumber, once an environmentally friendly, family-owned business, became part of a conglomerate whose business practices made it a ripe target for environmental activists. But A Good Forest for Dying is also the story of Gypsy Chain, a troubled young man raised in a loving family. A social misfit in his small Texas hometown, he died in a faraway forest before he had a chance to come to terms with himself and his family. His mother never lost faith in her sometimes wayward, idealistic son. After his death, and helped by a team of shrewd, leftist lawyers, she mounted a fight for justice in the name of her son and the cause of saving the redwoods.
A balanced, highly readable examination of complex, emotionally charged issues, A Good Forest for Dying will appeal to a wide audience. Its insights into the inner workings of the radical environmental movement and its dissection of corporate greed and misdeeds are reminiscent of such provocative exposés as A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich. The story of Gypsy's strange odyssey and the disturbing circumstances of his death — seen primarily through the eyes of his mother — is as powerful and as moving as Jon Krakauer's classic Into the Wild.
"[Beach] deftly weaves...an account that effectively rips into the half-truths, assumptions, and pernicious mythologies....The straight stuff: sobering, eye-opening, and not all that sanguine." Kirkus Reviews
"Though Beach attempts fairness to all sides, his sense of moral outrage is never far from the surface — and his rib-kicking prose takes no prisoners." Publishers Weekly
"'She sat in her pickup and cried her makeup off.' In the radiance of a thousand small, unforgettable images like this one, Patrick Beach illuminates the broken humanity of ordinary people trapped on both sides of a lethal logging confrontation. His copious reporting of their narrowing fate, discharged into a spare, but all-seeing narrative, elevates their powerlessness and suffering into an American fable for our times: symptomatic, cautionary, indispensable." Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tom and Huck Don't Live Here Anymore, and co-author of Flags of Our Fathers
"A rare combination of dispassionate reporting and thoroughly engaging story-telling. Accounts from the front in the environmental wars don't get any better than this." H. W. Brands, author of The Age of Gold and The First American
A balanced, highly readable examination of complex, emotionally charged issues, A Good Forest for Dying is the story of an Earth First! activist killed in a confrontation with a Pacific Lumber logger.
About the Author
Patrick Beach is a feature writer for the Austin American-Statesman. He has received awards from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors and the Texas Institute of Letters, and was a finalist for the Livingston Award. He lives in Austin, Texas.
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