From Publishers Weekly
Commingling fame and wealth, Beverly Hills embodies the modern version of the American dream, but journalist Horowitz (Tessie and Pearlie)
argues that it's also a modern American nightmare. Her tale of corporate neglect, petty politics, endless legal wrangling and our love-hate relationship with petroleum centers on Beverly Hills High School and its illustrious alumni, oil derricks and alarming number of cancer victims. Initially skeptical of the idea that the profitable oil pumps adjacent to the school have led to an array of horrible diseases among its graduates, especially with celebrity advocate Erin Brockovich poking around the case, Horowitz quickly found herself pulled into a story that raises fundamental questions about how we assess risk and balance our desire for justice with scientific and legal ambiguities about establishing causes and assigning blame. Horowitz is better at raising such questions than answering them, largely because in her case the truth does not come out, the public and even people involved in the litigation begin to lose interest, and no lawsuits have come to trial, let alone been resolved. That doesn't make for very satisfying reading, but it's faithful to a time in which, as Horowitz says, even our will to do right by our communities has been contaminated by competing desires. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At her thirtieth reunion, Horowitz was astonished to learn that so many of her former classmates had cancer. Oil wells under the town of Beverly Hills and the highly regarded high school were apparently the cause. She had some difficulty getting access to documents because of ongoing lawsuits initiated by famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich. Still, Horowitz draws on interviews with cancer specialists, geologists, toxicologists, and former teachers and classmates to relate an amazing story of environmental hazard in one of the nation's most storied towns, proof that it can happen anywhere. For years students had been living with oil-tinged clothing following workouts on the athletic fields, with oil pumps looming in the background. But town residents, enjoying royalty checks and the tony image of their community, refused to connect the presence of oil pumps and rising reports of cancer in their youth. Horowitz chronicles the residents' range of emotions, from anger and denial to shame at having done so little to protect their children, as she examines the role of money, image, and continued uncertainty in a community grappling with environmental hazards. Bush, Vanessa