McGoran, who for years has written about the co-op food movement and is a member of the Philadelphia Liar's Club of mystery and suspense book authors, has fashioned a tightly wrought drama about Philly cop Doyle Carrick, who's serving a suspension in the opposite end of vacationland, near Hawk Mountain. Carrick, suspended for assault, is supposed to lay low. But trouble follows him as he begins to unwind a drug operation producing genetically modified heroin. That's not all that's going on in the fragmented and economically destabilized fields of rural of Pennsylvania.
"It wasn't until genetically modified organisms came into the mainstream that I really started thinking about food politics as a theme for a thriller," McGoran told me. "So it struck me as an issue, one that I felt strongly enough about to become involved in, but also one that I felt strongly enough about that I wanted to explore it in fiction. It already had a lot of the elements of a thriller: powerful, shadowy forces using political and economic power to unleash into the environment poorly understood and inadequately tested new life forms that could spread and change and have far reaching, and possibly irreversible, repercussions."
McGoran will present his book at a talk at the Academy of Natural Sciences on July 9 at 7PM.
Beyond the Hawk Mountain landscape of real estate speculators, out of work farmers, drug addicts, and the occasional visionary organic farmer—in the form here of a Cornell University grad Nola Watkins—are the looming political issues of environmental toxins, corporate power, and food subsidies. Says McGoran, "The vulnerability of the land and the food is very real and very important. That was one of the first ideas in the book: that tension between someone trying to do this thing that shouldn't be hard to do and didn't used to be hard to do—grow food without a bunch of chemicals or other foreign technologies in it—and faceless people doing other things that threaten to destroy it. A lot of what is considered environmentalism in this country is really just an acknowledgement that externalized costs are real, and an expectation that someone who is causing damage to the environment be held responsible for that. In Drift it happens directly: Nola's efforts to grow organic food are hurt by someone else's actions, and she wants to find out who it is and make it right, or at least find out what is going on, what is contaminating her land and her food."