I have said before that I really like survival fiction; dystopic visions of some future calamity and how the people in those situations survive whatever crisis they are faced with and how their lives look in this new reality they are suddenly thrust into. In almost every case, once the major disaster is over, people learn first that living without life’s conveniences is hard work and that the lessons of our forefathers are lost or rusty at best. The next lesson is usually that in survival situations, the worst element in society has the opportunity to rise up completely unfettered by rules, law, or morals in most cases. In bad times, bad people and even some good people do bad things. The actions that once were illegal and frowned upon by decent society are at times inflicted upon the heroes of the story who may or may not exact some measure of justice before it’s all over.
I have tried to reflect on what it is in these stories that draws my interest. At one point I thought it was my relatively recent interest in the lifestyle of prepping that drew me to novels like Patriots, One Second After, Holding their Own and Going Home but I was interested in this subject matter long before the Prepper Journal was ever a gleam in my eye. Movies like Mad Max were around back in 1979. The original Red Dawn was out in the mid-eighties and there are a myriad of others that you can watch on our Best Prepper Movie list if you are jonesing for a good end of the world thriller. My recent interest in Survival wasn’t the driving force – I think since I was much younger I, along with a lot of others obviously, am drawn to the struggle of humans engaged in fighting for their lives. Survival is just that and I think at the root of any of these end of the world as we know it movies, survival is the base motive for anyone in the story. As humans, I think we all at some point deep inside wonder how we would fare if we were in those same situations, what we would be willing to do and maybe what life could look like if this imaginary vision came true.
So, I was pretty interested when I was contacted by Richard Earl Broome regarding a novel he had written called Leaving the Trees. He described the book as “a fictional account of the meltdown of the global financial markets, our world economies, and ultimately our society, as we now know it. It has at its root cause a malevolent cyber-attack by China that finally causes everything to spin out of control.” You had me at hello.
Leaving the Trees starts off in Washington as the dominoes of an Economic Collapse start to fall and initially follows the people who are tasked with watching and reporting on the information that would alert everyone to problems in the markets. It is written with the perspective that to me, the untrained person, would assume comes from someone with more than a passing understanding of how these things work at a national level and the story struck me both with a sense of wonder that something so complex is left to a relatively small number of watch dogs and simultaneously marveled at how we haven’t jumped the rails completely before now. Leaving the Trees very quickly gets you into the action and the plot spins to the event that causes everything to collapse rather quickly. From that point on we are interacting with a small survival camp some years after the economic catastrophe and we get to see how one band of survivors has been able to live together in a small spot right inside the tree line in the woods of Montana outside the city of Bozeman.
Leaving the Trees is not a long read and I polished it off in a couple of hours, but the story was fascinating to me and I was immediately pulled into the group as we met Erin and watched as events transpire around her and the rest of the camp. I don’t want to give away any other details, but there are a few surprises. The first one took me completely off guard, but the book brings you into a new chapter of the camp nicely. The writing is intelligent and the characters are all pretty believable and interesting.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it ended so quickly and hopefully Richard’s next book will be a little longer. One of the problems writers get into I think are strange plot twists that go nowhere, but this novel is pretty lean and gets you from high-point to high-point with not a lot of room to get bored or start questioning the practicality of any fictional elements. I am anxiously looking forward to reading his next installment and will most likely review that as well. I will also add it to our resources page for future reference if you want to find it again. Leaving the Trees is a great story and I can’t wait for the next one.
I asked Richard to answer some questions about his novel and he was generous enough to oblige.
Give us an overview of your book, LEAVING THE TREES.
LEAVING THE TREES is a fictional account of the meltdown of our global society, as we know it. It has at its root cause a malevolent cyber attack on the global financial networks and systems by China that finally causes everything to spin out of control. It is initially set in Washington D.C. with political leaders who do not deal effectively with this calamity. As things begin to unravel, and society loses the ability to cope, things just stop working. At this point the novel sharply transitions to the future and the aftermath of this global meltdown. The last two thirds of the book focuses on how a small community in Montana must pick up the pieces and learn how to survive, with what they have left and how they must live. It is suspense novel about trust, deception, betrayal and revenge that is filled with many twists, and turns.
What is it about and who is this book for?
A central theme in the book is what will be your “worth” if there is a societal meltdown? Not in gold or silver or other assets, but what contribution do you make that everyone else who is surviving values? One of the main characters, Erin Owens, was a Wall Street broker who went from being wealthy and affluent to having almost nothing. She was very far from being prepared. She made it to a survival camp and her new worth was sitting in a tree and keeping watch for marauders who might want to attack the camp.
Here are some quotes from the book about worth, describing how the ex-military leader in charge of the survivors in the camp, Roberta Alvarez, measured this:
Their internal currency was their worth to the group. Barter was the norm. Chopped firewood was a haircut and trimmed nails. Standing watch up in a tree earned your meals that day and safe, warm sleeping place for the night.
Roberta was also the self-appointed “Worth Master” for the group. Roberta decided a person’s worth by using an internal mental gauge she had for each group member or potential member. She had the right of “Take In.” “Take In” was simple. Roberta decided you had worth to the group and would make a contribution; in short you were worth feeding and sheltering. If she said yes, you were allowed to join.
She also had the right of “Cast Out”. “Cast Out” was quick and brutal. If you no longer were contributing, Roberta handed you some food and told you to leave. She had demonstrated this more than once in the early days with some of the weaker members of the original group of about thirty people. If you were lazy, you were told to leave. No second chances with Roberta.
Page 50, LEAVING THE TREES, All rights reserved.
What influenced or inspired you to write this book?
My book is really the culmination of a lifetime of experiences, expressed in fiction, about the concerns I do have for all of us if we cannot find a way to get this country back on track. Any student of history will recognize the United States is ripe for another nation to take advantage of us if we do not overcome this. A well-orchestrated cyber event could be our next Pearl Harbor. In my book I use an attack that freezes up the global financial systems. Just as likely is some sort of a malevolent cyber attack on US energy systems that cripples our heat, power and light sources. Think about that in winter with the wind blowing and wind chills below zero. Trust me when I tell you our global adversaries definitely are. It would cause chaos for us and they know it.
What type of research did you draw upon while writing your book?
Again, a lifetime of incredible experiences is found in this book. I joined the U.S. Army at the age of eighteen with a high school diploma. I then spent the next twenty-seven years in military service going from a Private to a full Colonel. By the end of my military service, I had also earned my Bachelor’s Degree and two Master’s degrees. The military was followed by almost nineteen years as a businessman, mostly on Wall Street. I had the extraordinary good fortune to be asked to serve on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as a member of their National Security Council staff as a part of their crisis management team. During this period I also spent a great deal of time studying and learning about the threats to the United States and what measures needed to be taken to insure our survival as a nation if the worst ever occurred.
After I retired from the military, I became a management consultant to both the government and to commercial businesses helping them plan for the resilience of their enterprises against the increasing threats facing all of us. I am now a college professor at Montana State University and a novelist. I was privileged a little over a year ago to deliver to the faculty and students of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Montana State, the fall David B. Orser Lecture. My topic was: “Managing Risk in the New Operating Reality.”
What do you think is the most important thing that people overlook when it comes to survival?
People need to think more deeply about this and consider the possibility that the unexpected event could more likely than the expected one. I notice on the prepper blogs a constant question is when will we know: “This is it?” In other words, to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell’s book title, when do we think we will hit the “tipping point” that really brings things down?
From my days on the National Security Council staff, and subsequently as a consultant, I have thought about this quite a great deal. I have concluded a massive catastrophic event (e.g. nuclear) is the least likely cause. The most likely cause is an unexpected collapse caused by a cascading event that starts in an innocuous way and then slowly grows out of control until it undoes one of our primary and essential complex processes and its systems that keeps our society running. Food supply? Power grids? It could come from anywhere.
Do you have plans for another book?
Yes. This is actually a three book series. My second book, the sequel to LEAVING THE TREES, is complete and in the final editing process. The title is GOOD CRAZY. People who buy GOOD CRAZY need to read LEAVING THE TREES first to be able to follow the story line as these survivors of an apocalyptic meltdown of society learn to survive when thing all fall apart. Some of the survivors in LEAVING THE TREES were preppers; others were ex-military who knew what they had to do to stay alive. I spend more time in the next book, GOOD CRAZY, featuring in a flashback sequence, an excellent prepper who did things right and that the others came to rely on. I expect GOOD CRAZY will be out by this summer.
I have outlined the third book, which takes us through the restoration of civilization and how that was achieved. I am targeting the third book for summer 2015.
Where are some of the sources you go to daily for information?
I read or watch very widely, anything and everything. This comes from my military background and my understanding of the creation of intelligence estimates. You have to consider every possible source as useful to you in developing your own opinion and final analysis of what is occurring. You may not like the message or ideology behind it, but you need to know what it is.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of The Prepper Journal?
I feel we are at a critical juncture in the nation, yet we have slowly lost the sense of urgency we felt immediately after the 2001 attacks years ago in New York and Washington, DC. Time has passed, people feel more complacent. That’s dangerous.
Where can people purchase your book?
It is available in both a print version and an eBook version on Amazon.
Where can people see you in person? Conferences/ Trade shows?
I did a number of book signings over the holiday period, but because I am still working as a college professor, I have nothing scheduled at present.