THE LAST STAND by David Harris


The War Between Wall Street and Main Street Over California's Ancient Redwoods
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 A mesmerizing, blow-by-blow account of Pacific Lumber's hostile takeover by Charles Hurwitz, and the ecological battles it engendered, from journalist Harris (The League, 1986, etc.). Scotia was a drowsy company town in northern California, the pride of Pacific Lumber and its owners, the Murphy family. The company took care of its own--it educated the kids through college, nursed the sick, provided work and security and entertainment (though the whorehouse did close in the 1920s). It also practiced two unusual lumbering techniques: sustainable yield (cut never to exceed growth) and selective cutting (never cut more, and often less, than 70% of a parcel). There may have been a dark side to company life, though Harris doesn't identify any, and regardless, PL was no chop-and-flee operation; they were in it for the long haul. Enter Hurwitz, corporate raider, buyout artist, general sleazeball. Harris gives a detailed account of the vile doings behind the stock takeover (with such creatures as Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and Dennis Levine involved, it had to be ugly); the stunned then angry response of company millhands, fellers, and buckers; and the actions taken by local environmentalists to try to stop Hurwitz once he had jettisoned PL's sustainable yield and selective cut traditions. (Of course, Hurwitz needed to cull all the most ancient groves to pay for the junk bonds. He also grazed lustily on the pension fund.) Harris tells the story with the sly, creeping urgency of a good thriller, shot through with the shame of this willful destruction of a thriving community. And Hurwitz is still at it, somehow avoiding the tube ride that sent Boesky et al. to the slammer, though many of his old-growth cuts are stymied by lawsuits. Arresting, first-rate reportage from the deep woods.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8129-2577-7
Page count: 388pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995


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