Doomsday comes to East County
Troutdale man's self-published novel a cautionary tale of society's collapse - and Corbett's survival
Early last December, Bill Flynn of Troutdale sat down to knock out a story that had been percolating in the back of his head since fall.
When he finally looked up Jan. 11, he had written a novel.
Titled 'Shut Down,' Flynn's self-published fiction is about the collapse of an oil-dependent society.
That would be us, he reminds us. Flynn, a substitute teacher at Reynolds High, has been pondering the peak oil theory, noting that it is no longer theory and that nearly everyone acknowledges we are on the downhill slide in terms of oil.
Flynn's shutdown is triggered by a badly-timed closure of banks, which cuts off debit cards and - gasp - leaves people unable to pay for their morning Starbucks, much less the 8 bucks a gallon that gasoline costs. (But the debit card doesn't work in the pump anyway, and therein lies a tale, as another writer once said.)
The Troutdale author, by the way, drives a Yaris, 37 mpg. Ironically, one of his heroes, a big tough guy, escapes chaos in a Hummer.
We have all, Flynn included, read a doomsayer novel or two. We have seen New York disintegrate in film and on the printed page. But Flynn launches his novel in Portland, toppling civilized society eastward through Troutdale - Gresham is in distant flames but you can't find out much because cell phones don't work - ending with a standoff in Corbett.
The tale is no picnic, though a lot off people flee carrying food. Flynn chose Corbett for a stand-off because its residents are more likely to have and use weapons, along with the land and ability to grow food and dynamite enough to topple the bridges over the Sandy River when hungry hordes advance. Further, it has a gravity-fed water system that will run without the necessity of pumps.
Corbett's survivors are remarkably cohesive - hard to believe if you've ever been to a school board meeting. The tale is so bloody that you will never see the scenery in the same way again driving Gordon Creek Road.
'I thought it would be fun for my kids and neighbors,' Flynn said when he first conceived the book. 'I figured I'd buy a couple hundred, but by this week I have sold 1,000 copies.'
His readers have been his editors, catching typos and mistakes, writing in corrections.
The latest purchase through CreateSpace is his cleanest version yet, he says. 'People were so kind. They'd email and say, 'You missed a period here.''
Flynn, who also works as a weekend guard at Bonneville, serves on the Troutdale citizens advisory and public safety committees. A world traveler, because his wife works for the airlines, he previously worked for the state department and once spent a month working on a communal farm in Cuba.
While he is not a fan of collapse of society theory, he finds that most agree on the basic stuff. That most cities have just a three-day supply of food. That fresh water will stop flowing. That people will be forced to walk or ride bikes. Nearly all of Corbett's survivors end up on bicycles or foot, as does the mayor of Troutdale, Jim 'Wright.' And that people who don't starve to death will die because the life-saving medications they take are no longer available.
'It's a story of warning,' he says. 'We have to change the path of over consumption, the path of gluttony.
'We know that our entire western civilization is dependent on a continuous interrupted flow of fossil fuels.'
And his book, he says, triggers a core drive in every man to protect his family.
Would he resort to the violence that he wrote? 'I don't know,' he says. 'There is no answer.'
Flynn has been accused of stereotyping some of the villains of his piece, street gangsters, convicts loosed from Inverness jail.
Acknowledging that most area gangs are Hispanic or African American, he said, 'I had to paint it as realistic as it was. To change the makeup of the gangs would have been disingenuous and false.'
He is the first to admit he is not a polished writer. His characters are not fully drawn. The dialogue is often a bit clunky, and the writing lacks finesse. But Flynn can spin a yarn and tell a story that no one is likely to put down.
On Dec. 3 this year, he started the sequel, set two years after 'Shut Down.'
'Shut Down' is available from Amazon.com for $15 or on an e-book reader for $7.99. It is also available at Powell's and at the Shot in the Dark coffee shop, 2517 S.W. Cherry Park Road.