Books by Mike Tidwell

NON-FICTION
Released: March 4, 2003

"First-rate report from a land even environmentalists forgot."
Travel journalist Tidwell (Amazon Stranger, 1996, etc.) takes a lingering, eye-opening look at the bayous and marshlands of West Louisiana. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: May 6, 1996

From deep in the Ecuadoran rainforest, from the heart of the Cof†n Indian lands, comes Tidwell's (In the Shadow of the White House, 1992, etc.) spirited firsthand report on the indigenous peoples' struggle to survive. Eastern Ecuador perhaps defines the notion of biodiversity, a natural habitat agog with every manner of creature, and the home of the Cof†n Indians. It is also the resting place of petroleum products, which Texaco wished to exploit as far back as 1965 and which are now eyed covetously by the Texas-based Maxus oil group. Tidwell paid a visit to the rainforest to gauge the effects of ecotourism and fell for the place wholesale, rapt in the ``macaws and kapok trees, dolphins and sherbert butterflies.'' He was equally smitten by Randy Borman, son of white missionaries and now leader of the Zabalo Cof†n, and his efforts to protect the diminished Cof†n acreage from further assault by oil interests. But this is not just a David against Goliath story—though it is a blow-by-blow account of the canny Cof†n challenge to forays by the government-controlled Petroecuador into their territory. It is also the sad tale of ruined Indian villages, where wildlife was out and oil spills were in. Amid all the mayhem caused by the oil companies, Tidwell treats readers to the episodic theater of the jungle, with one fantastic siting tripping over another. By turns wry, morose, upbeat, and blue, Tidwell writes with admirable restraint (it must have been hard not to go ballistic when confronted with all the outrages) and with an appealing personal touch: He was always crushed when the quixotic Borman treated him brusquely. A tale with enough punch to turn a few heads and enough storytelling talent to keep the converted charmed. (First serial to Reader's Digest) Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

Brilliant and terrifying evocation of the crack monster devouring Washington, D.C., coupled with addicts' biographies. Tidwell (The Ponds of Kalambayi, 1990)—white, suburban, 26 years old—went to work as a counselor in an inner-city halfway house for addicts on the same day that George Bush, promising a kinder, gentler America, was inaugurated. That year—1989—would see Washington with a higher homicide rate than that of Beirut; the imposition of martial law; drug czar William Bennett's masked, shotgun-toting shock troops; and 25 percent of the city's young black men in the prison system. Tidwell, a gifted storyteller, relates how, his first day on the job, he naively asked Jake—a recovering addict—what ``rock'' (crack) was; Jake's second lesson for Tidwell was hitting the deck when the nightly gunfire began outside. As Tidwell began to know these men—Vietnam vets, federal clerks, ex-cops, construction workers—who had been caught in crack's net and lost all, he wondered how they were able to stay clean against all reason: When they left the house, they would be offered crack by dealers before they had gone a block; without carfare, some walked 15 miles a day, day after day, vying for jobs that paid five dollars an hour; and virtually all had broken families. Their trust of Tidwell deepening, the men introduced him to Narcotics Anonymous, an underground, self-help fellowship modelled after AA, which silently has grown apace with the drug epidemic. Tidwell's description of Bennett's troops forcing dealers to retreat to new areas throughout the city—ironically insuring that at some time virtually every teenager would have a 24-hour drug market on or near his block—juxtaposed with his passionate stories of addicts rebuilding their lives with NA meetings, makes unforgettable reading and an unequivocal damnation of politicians' get-tough promises. Unique and important in recent addiction literature: a very fine achievement. Read full book review >