Nate Randall is an almost-was rock star, licking his wounds and failing in a relationship with his financially successful but nihilistic girlfriend, Sheila McNally, when she calls him from her hated job on the 97th floor of World Trade Center Tower 2, which is on fire and about to crumble into lower Manhattan. As her final act, Sheila tells Nate the combination to the safe in her apartment containing a secret trove of damning information. The documentation implicates her employer, United Silicon Enterprises, along with high government officials and members of the garbage mob that include her despised father, Bill McNally, in a scheme to profit from the massive stream of toxic waste the company produces every day.
Shaken and transformed by Sheila's death, the subsequent cancer-related death of his best friend and former band mate, Rico Exman, and a couple of near-death experiences of his own, Nate metamorphoses himself into a cub reporter for a small newspaper in Dutch Hollow, the upstate New York town of Sheila's birth. While initially finding a new lease on life as a muckraking investigative journalist living among a tribe of quirky fellow misanthropes (and reluctantly falling in love with a young reporter in the process), Nate becomes increasingly radicalized by the revelations he discovers.
Realizing that exposing the byzantine world of the black market toxic waste/drug cartel conspiracy will ultimately be a fruitless, unappreciated and ineffective task, Nate is drawn into the orbit of Nick Vitello, a disgruntled elder mobster who craftily manipulates him into spearheading a violent act of what can only be described as eco-terrorism. As can reasonably be expected, things do not quite go as planned, with catastrophically mixed results.
Many of the book's revelations are true and are based on investigations the author performed over a five-year period for The Nation Institute. New York State and especially Hudson Valley residents will enjoy trying to figure out which characters, institutions, events and locales have their seeds in reality, and will hopefully be motivated to look a little closer at the beautiful but tainted world around them. Wasted is testament to the dawning realization in the opening decades of 21st Century America that the threat of terrorism pales in relation to the devastation being wrought by unscrupulous members of our nation's power elite in the name of greed.
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