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John Harrington
Reefer plus revenue: the endless opportunities to benefit society, arrived through an entertaining, suspenseful and poignant story.
From its title, readers might expect that this scruffy yet idealistic caper, Harrington’s debut, comes with the whiff of marijuana smoke. The politics and promise of weed are crucial to the story, of course, but you don’t have to know the differences between indica and sativa to appreciate the hook: After surviving a bomb scare, a public-spirited Massachusetts senator, driven by insights into leadership and problem solving he gleaned as a child from a diabetic neighbor, commits to getting out in front of the inevitable federal legalization of marijuana—and ensuring that the revenue weed generates gets targeted toward the country’s most pressing problems “before the graft and greed and all that other manipulation gets rolling.”

Good governance is the enemy of crime, though, so soon the senator’s team becomes the target of the same shadowy villain who planted the mysterious package at Senator Peter McGillicuddy’s Boston door. A chatty, upbeat espionage adventure follows, featuring a kidnapping, a likable field team, a genius computer engineer, and a heavy with a classically gargantuan bad guy lair, where weed is cultivated and the workers can be commanded to make out with each other. The feeling is loose, sometimes comic, with plot momentum sacrificed to loquacious characters–much of the story’s action, context, and laughs comes through dialogue (“He just threw a bottle down on the ground at the foot of that little sapling near the bus stop!” one cop says to another in the same car). That blunts the suspense but creates a hangout vibe, even in the sections in which a rookie cop faces corruption on his first day on the force.

The idealistic streak sets Reefenue apart, as Harrington envisions some political actors who truly strive to better our world and cut-and-dried villains trying to thwart them. Readers expecting a nuanced look at efforts to stymie corruption in the new world of legal weed won’t find that here, but this thriller’s big heart is refreshing.

Takeaway: This upbeat thriller about the politics of weed legalization dares to be idealistic.

Great for fans of: George V. Higgins, Christopher Buckley.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B

Personal Sale of Home-made Hardcover

A New Novel with a Mission Reefenue is a novel with surprising and reasonable conclusions about marijuana in our society through imagining what it would be like to have it as a mainstream, legal commodity instead of a very limited or forbidden product in the hands of the mafia, where its dangers in this book and in real life are not chemical but rather those of distribution in the hands of powerful thugs for whom murder is a mere inconvenience for those who interfere with material profits. The characters are drawn with a realism that makes their values, humor, shortcomings, and even breathing part of the reader’s journey through the book’s 370 pages. Each persona is plausible down to his or her speech patterns, personal idioms and motives right down to the romance between Morty and Hank (Henrietta). The villainous Maestro conveys a picture of evil that makes any bad guys from Ian Fleming look like Mr. Rogers. The conflict at times becomes a wee bit grinding for readers who want simply “to get on with it”, but Mr. Harrington is not what I would call a “terse” writer with a sense of verbal economy. His scenarios paint characters and their predicaments in sensory ways with elaborate detail and plausible, extensive dialogue. The principal message from the book is that marijuana should not be something restricted by government interference. I think of prohibition of alcohol during the 1920’s and early 1930’s and am convinced that many similar horrors of crime from that era could be diminished or eliminated by making pot as legal as cigarettes. Mr. Harrington is a skilled writer with a mission, one that he renders quite convincingly in his novel.

John Bolinger