Freen tells the complex story of a legendary Northern California marijuana-growing operation in this debut novel.
In Humboldt County in 2035, the hamlet of Log is world-renowned as the source of the marijuana strain Supra, which its residents began growing during the decades of prohibition. But now that marijuana is legal everywhere, the town has become a sanitized tourist destination of docents and smoke shops, making big bucks for the locals and giving old-timers cause to whine about the good old days. The narrator, a 50-something ex-journalist who calls himself Scribbler, sits down with his 90-something parents, Sedgely and Sheila Strong, to learn their story, which is deeply intertwined with the history of Log itself. The two young hippies arrived in town in 1969, when smoking pot could be “considered a political act.” They soon hooked up with the Combine, an organization of outlaw growers that originated Supra, which was so powerful that it was known to make a person “believe in the hippie dream…a world beyond commerce, where LOVE is the only currency.” The story of the Combine involves pseudonymous characters and mysterious ambitions, and it effectively draws on the conflicting ideologies of its two founders, Albeit Bean and Lincoln Chang. The tale of their rise and fall also embodies the entire history of the hippie movement. Freen’s prose is as lush and crunchy as the environment in which it is set: “the marvelous, previously praised fir-scented air flows around us. And our bustling town, overrun as always with strangers, provides the background noise that has become the soundtrack to our lives.” Although it takes a while for the novel to find its rhythm—the future-set frame story belies what’s ultimately a rather standard historical-novel structure—the colorful characters and druggy intrigue will be enough to capture the reader’s attention, once things get rolling. Fans of the counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as its literature, will particularly enjoy this nostalgic account of a pre-legalization era.
An ambitious, idiosyncratic novel about the legacy of Cali cannabis culture.