Professor’s New Book a Study in Courage against a Fossil Fuel Giant


Contributed by Debbi DeWeese

Retired writing professor Fred A. Wilcox’s latest book of nonfiction, Shamrocks and Oil Slicks: A People’s Uprising Against Shell Oil in County Mayo, Ireland, will be published by Monthly Review Press in September.

Wilcox taught many classes at IC including Personal Essay, Writing on War and Peace, and Fiction Writing in the Department of Writing at IC from 1987 until his retirement in 2015. He has written several books of nonfiction as well as numerous essays, short stories, and op-ed pieces. His debut novel, Secrets, was published by Split Oak Press in 2013; his second, Tommy Mackin’s Vow, by Cayuga Lake Books in 2017. His next novel, nearing completion, is a thriller set in present-day New York City.

Shamrocks and Oil Slicks is the true story of ordinary people under attack by a major fossil-fuel corporation, and the corrupt politicians, police, clergy, and media that abetted the intruder. It is set in County Mayo, Ireland, a spectacularly beautiful region where dolphins, whales, and seals frolic in bays, rivers teem with salmon, and tourism is the major industry other than fishing and agriculture.

Into this tranquil, unspoiled region came Shell Oil in 2002, announcing plans to build a gas refinery. Shell promised wonderful things: new jobs, improved roads, money for schools.

But when the citizens of County Mayo realized what Shell actually intended to do, they rose up. Shamrocks & Oil Slicks tells the story of the fishermen, farmers, teachers, businesspeople, artists, and journalists who, motivated by love for their environment, their community, and their country, fought a 15-year nonviolent battle against one of the planet’s most powerful destroyers.

Residents from all walks of life were beaten by police, threatened by mercenaries, sent to jail and prison. Abandoned by the state and their church, insulted and maligned by the media, they refused to give up fighting to save their environment and their heritage.

The publisher says, “This is a story of the courage inherent in everyday folk, told with sweeping and lyrical sincerity. It is one of many stories taking place now throughout the world, wherever people struggle to preserve what’s left of their natural world. More people are joining this resistance every day, inspired by uprisings like the one in County Mayo.”

Fred Wilcox is a writer, teacher, veterans’ advocate, and peace activist who has devoted his life to chronicling the effects of chemical warfare in Vietnam, and to exposing governmental criminality in all of its many forms. His books include the seminal examinations of U.S. toxification of people and the environment in Vietnam, Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange and Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam.

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