Date Published: 02-06-2024
Publisher: Sunbury Press, Inc.
REAP THE WIND is THE PERFECT STORM meets THE FIRM.
The novel is an action/adventure thriller in which three lawyers flee Houston heading to Cincinnati in a rented Lincoln Town Car. They must drive across Texas and the Midwest in the midst of the worst climate change-induced hurricane of the century so Josh Goldberg can be with his girlfriend who is giving birth to their baby. They have to survive a hurricane, tornado, hailstorm, driving rain, and each other to get there.
Josh’s travel companions are his best friend—an alcoholic, drug-addicted lawyer—and his boss who connives to derail his plans so she can get to Philadelphia for a business meeting with a Norwegian billionaire. The odyssey is dangerous on many levels and may be a suicide trip.
Read An Excerpt Below...
About the Author
Joel Burcat is an award-winning author of three environmental legal thrillers: Drink to Every Beast (about illegal dumping of toxic waste), Amid Rage (about a coal mine permit battle), and Strange Fire (about a fracking dispute). His most recent book, Reap the Wind, published by Sunbury Press, Inc., is about three lawyers trying to drive from Houston to Cincinnati in a climate change-induced hurricane.
He has received a number of awards, including the Gold Medal for environmental fiction from Readers’ Favorite for Strange Fire, and as a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Amid Rage. He has written numerous short stories. Burcat imbues his novels with facts to educate his readers about critical environmental issues while they are being entertained by the story.
Burcat’s books are infused with realism developed over a forty plus year career as an environmental lawyer. Burcat has worked in government as an Assistant Attorney General and in a private law practice. He was selected as the 2019 Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Litigation (for Central PA) by Best Lawyers in America. Among his numerous professional writings, he has edited two significant books on environmental and energy law. He has retired from the practice of law and works full-time as a novelist.
He is an active member of the International Thriller Writers and PennWriters.
Burcat lives in Harrisburg, Pa. with his wife, Gail.
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rain rat-a-tat-tatted against the fuselage of the Weatherbird aircraft and
sounded like an old World War II movie soundtrack the moment before the plane
was shot from the sky. Prologue
At twenty-five hundred feet, they
broke through the cloud ceiling and Windy could see the ocean, gray and
tempestuous, enraged and wrathful, with swells the height of skyscrapers, and
nothing but rough water for hundreds of miles around. Not exactly ideal for a
water landing. This would not be Captain Sully and his U.S. Airways Airbus on
The Navy or Coast Guard would
dispatch a ship to retrieve them.
If there was anything left to pick
Generally speaking, partnership was
dangled in front of the associates in the way a fish was dangled in front of a
cartoon cat running on a treadmill on the old Saturday morning TV shows. Always
just out of reach. Geoff was two years and eleven months into those three years
at Bartram, Wynne. His time was nearly up. Chapter 1
I’d once been told by a senior
partner that making partner at our law firm was a “vicious meritocracy.”
Bullshit. It was more like rushing a fraternity. Even today. One blackball and
you were screwed. If one of the big guys didn’t like you, you had to hope that
partner either retired or had a stroke. That’s the way it is. I don’t expect
anyone to shed a tear for us. Associates in big law firms are overpaid
crybabies. Truth. Chapter 1
At that moment, a thick clump of
leaves and small branches splattered against the window with a loud bang. Then,
a gray ball crashed into the center of the glass. Claws sprang from the ball
and scratched the glass for a grip. A gray squirrel. Not the flying kind, but
the regular neighborhood type. He was soaked and you could see his heart
pounding through his white underbelly. Shit. That dude must have flown about
three hundred feet in the air to reach the twenty-eighth floor. Slowly, he slid
down the window, his claws leaving scratches in the glass. Finally, he tumbled
to the bottom of the window onto a narrow ledge and huddled in a corner of the
sill. Shivering. Chapter 1
“Wow, that looks intense,” said a
female member of the anchor team, safely bunkered away in the studio in
Houston. “Has the Weather Service given any reason for this late storm?”’
A trickle of blood wormed its way
down Stan’s neck, then began soaking his white golf-shirt collar. “The NWS says
intense storms like these are caused by climate change, if you can believe
that. I listen to a wide variety of sources and one podcast says it’s just good
ol’ Mother Nature having fun with us. They say climate change, if it even
exists, has nothing to do with this.” Stan managed a big folksy smile. “Take
your pick folks,” he held up his mic and his free hand, palm up, exposing a
handful of blood. He made the motion like he was weighing something in both.
“Your call.” Bright weatherman smile. Chapter 1
I love guys like Abdul. He got to
this country from Jordan ten years ago and is proud of his heritage. We talk
about Jordan and Israel often when he’s taking me around. They are civil
conversations. Here’s a man who came to this country with very little in his
pockets and drove someone else’s limo fourteen hours a day. Now he owns a
thriving business with a dozen drivers. How American is that? He loves America.
As Keisha pulled out her cell phone
to text Josh, an oncoming light blinded her, and she looked up. A
tractor-trailer, going too fast on the slick road, was headed straight for
The semi’s air brakes shrieked, and
the trucker leaned on his horn, blaring a frenzied warning.
Abdul’s knuckles were white on the
steering wheel, his eyes wide open, his teeth clenched and bared.
He cut the wheel first right, then
left, then right. The big car fishtailed and skidded sideways across the
Keisha yelled, “Oh God!”
She grabbed the overhead strap with
one hand and covered her face with the other.
She waited for the impact.
The limo’s tires squealed.
The car skidded onto the shoulder
toward the embankment.
Keisha held her breath awaiting the
impact. There was none. The semi continued without stopping or hitting
anything. The limo, however, hit some debris as it slid on the shoulder.
Keisha first heard, then felt, the
Abdul continued pumping the brakes
and working the wheel to keep the limo going straight. It was a masterful job
of driving and if it weren’t for the blowout, they would have been able to
continue to the airport. They slowed and he pulled off the road, two wheels in
the grass near a guiderail and two on the shoulder.
The limo idled quietly as they sat
saying nothing for several seconds. Finally, Abdul turned around and looked at
Keisha. “That son of a pig. Are you okay, Ms. Keisha? The baby?”
Keisha breathed heavily as she
evaluated her status. She seemed okay, but the limo had lurched back and forth
several times. The seatbelt was snug below the baby, and she hoped there was no
damage. “I think I’m fine. I just want to get home .” Chapter 4
“My situation is different,” I said
as I enjoyed the first sip of the new bottle. “You know, I have my opinions
about environmental issues, strong opinions, but I keep them to myself. I’ve
always considered myself an environmentalist, yet here I am, working as an
environmental lawyer for a big law firm that represents chemical, oil, and
waste disposal companies. I’ve convinced myself that I’m still doing the
environmental thing. I mean the C-Suite guys in the board room pay us a
shit-ton of money for our advice and I try to steer them in the right
direction. I like to believe they pay more attention to me than the people
protesting outside wearing the paper mâché Guy Fawkes masks. At the end of the
day though, my guts tell me I’m working on the wrong side.”
“How can you live with yourself
doing that?” Geoff asked. “I mean, I do real estate law and for the most-part
that’s morally neutral. Don’t you help companies get around the law?” He
I squinted my eyes. “Them’s
fightin’ words, pardner. No, I don’t do that. I don’t have to tell you that
regulations are really complicated. Most companies just want to have someone,
me, us, figure that out for them. I’ve never knowingly helped a company violate
“So, all you're doing is helping
companies to comply with the law so they can legally rape and pillage the
environment?” He smiled.
I shrugged. “What’s the line from
The Big Chill? ‘Then there’s the money.’ I hate to admit that. My views were
strong at one time, college, law school, but when the firm offered me the job,
I figured I’d better take it and keep my values to myself. The starting salary
was $160,000. One sixty. Way more than my father ever earned, and I didn’t know
squat. My total student loans when I graduated from law school were over
$300,000. One month after graduation, I had to begin paying $2760 a month to
pay that off. Do you know how that limits your choices?”
“No one told you to go to Haverford
and Georgetown Law.”
“Yeah, and when I was seventeen
years old, no one told me not to. Everyone said I should go to the best schools
I could get into. My parents paid some of college, but law school was entirely
“Don’t whine. It’s beneath you—”
“Says the kid who grew up in
Chestnut Hill and went to private school starting in kindergarten.” Chapter
There’s nothing worse than being
stuck somewhere, worrying about someone who matters to you, and having that
person located far away. Keisha wasn’t even close. I was getting sick to my
stomach. Chapter 7.
“I’m driving to Cincinnati in a
fucking hurricane.” Chapter 10
Geoff slowly shook his head no.
“You’re a no-good, shit-eating, low-life bastard, asshole scum, bro. I can’t
believe I’m saying this, but if you can convince your buddy Abdul to rent you a
limo, I’ll go with you. I’m not paying for gas. Plus, when we get back to
Philly, you and Keisha are taking Imani and me out to dinner at Barclay Prime.
And you’re going to buy a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon with
dinner.” Chapter 11
Abdul laughed. “Mr. Josh, you’ve
not spent any time in the souk, I see. That’s not how this works. I give you a
price, then you give me a lower price. We argue for a few minutes, and you tell
me how worthless my car is, you wouldn’t transport pigs or your mother-in-law
in it, you don’t really need it, blah, blah, then we agree in the middle.” Chapter
“This is going to be awesome,”
Geoff said looking forward, I assumed so Diane couldn’t read his lips. “The
Awesome, indeed. “All-righty then,”
I said. “Giddy up.” Chapter 13
The highway department seemed to be
playing a losing game of whack-a-mole with the tree limbs. Chapter 14
I started venturing across
tentatively, slowing to maybe ten mph. When I was a few dozen feet across, the
wind picked up even more and the car began to rock. I mean serious rocking. I
glanced at Geoff. He was holding the above-head grip with one hand and had his
other on the dashboard. I glanced in the rear view. Diane had put down her work
and had her hands on my seat to brace herself.
I tapped the gas and sped up to
thirty. The rocking eased a bit. When we were about half-way across, a big gust
coming down stream hit us from the side. The car began to go up on two wheels.
The front and back wheels on my side felt like they weren’t gripping the deck.
The wind was like a giant fist, pushing us off the bridge onto the narrow
shoulder. As my wheels were pushed, the noise from the concrete corduroy strip
on the shoulder warned me we were approaching the edge of the bridge. The car
felt like it was going to roll onto its roof and over into the river.
“The hell with it,” Geoff shouted over the
wind. “Get off the damn bridge.”
I stomped my foot on the gas and
the car shot ahead. It was all I could do to keep the wheels on the bridge. I
turned the steering wheel hard to the left, as though I was making a left-hand
turn, to keep from getting blown off the bridge. The tires squealed on the wet
pavement above the noise of the wind. When I got to the other side, just a few
seconds later, I quickly had to correct the wheel and the car swerved wildly as
we rocketed onto the highway doing at least seventy. A seagull shot past the
windshield. Not flying. It was like it had been launched from a canon. Chapter
Diane looked around the small place
with its booths and art from Sears and said, “Any chance you can make me a
macchiato, maybe a latté?”
The waitress closed her eyes and
shook her head. “Dang it, fresh out. I’ve got regular coffee and decaf coffee,
hon. Maxwell House. That’s it.”
Diane nodded and said, “Give me a
Diet Coke.” Chapter 15
Diane shrugged. “Whatever. You’re just
a real estate lawyer. What do you know? How to lease a shopping center? Asking
you about climate change would be like asking a urologist about brain surgery.”
“Down there,” yelled Geoff over the
rising noise as the tornado approached, now just hundreds of feet away. He
pointed to the side of the road. A ten-foot berm was built up just ahead,
between the field and the roadway. To carry the highway over a small dip in the
terrain. “It’s not much cover, but it’s better than nothing.”
I understood his idea but couldn’t
see how we could get down the steep incline without rolling over. “How are you
going to get there?”
Geoff looked at me and grinned. He
looked crazy-mad. “Hang on. We’re going full Dukes of Hazzard.”
“Wait! What?” Was all I could say
as I rushed to re-attach my seatbelt. Geoff hit the accelerator and we rocketed
into the teeth of the tornado. Chapter
As I sat there, I thought about
Diane and the firm. Basically, they had been good to me. As advertised. They
had made me the kind of lawyer I’d become. On the whole, the people were good,
smart-as-hell, high-achievers, and ambitious. The firm did what it said it
would do: it made me a great lawyer and gave me opportunities I’d never
imagined. I appreciated them. They gave me a platform to build a practice and
interesting cases to work on. They paid me handsomely. They generously doled
out the perks from a firm credit card, to bonuses, to box seats at Phillies and
Eagles games. They only demanded three things: I had to work hard; I was
expected to be honest with them in all things; and I owed them complete
The firm culture had seduced me.
Changed me. I needed to make money to pay off those damned student loans and
have a place to live, but the whole thing just made me feel…dirty. None of this
was what I wanted for myself on the day I started college or the day I started
law school. It was like I was sucked into the gaping maw of some alien
creature. Instead of consuming me, it transformed me into something else when
it shit me out. Made me something I didn’t expect or want to be. I wasn’t happy
about it. Chapter 25