Harry’s Trees – by Jon Cohen

I think I’ll be using this one as a comp title for THE FRINGE HIKERS.

I also saw a lot of myself in Harry – he’s a government forester who loves trees and he even lives on the same highway I do. He even describes his job as “counting trees,” which is the exact description I give people for my job as a research forester!

And Harry (or Jon Cohen) understand bad luck.


Bad luck is a manifestation of a universe that’s out to get you.

“The universe had found another way to torture him.”


Bad luck is hard to distinguish from coincidence. Bad luck maximizes its impact.

“When things go wrong they go very wrong.” “(No they don’t. There’s no pattern to anything.)”

A good luck charm is a risky thing to a chronically unlucky man.


“All the things that were supposed to go wrong, were going wrong.”


Bad luck can be hereditary. It’s not a choice.

“Harry, it’s in our blood. It never works. We’re the Crane boys. It always ends in disaster.”

The unfortunate have an aura of disaster around them, where things go wrong. This affects other people who happen to be near the bearer of bad luck. Often it affects innocent bystanders more than the source.

“Even addled and half-blind, Irv could perceive Harry’s consumingly desolate aura.”

His coworkers sensed this aura and left a radius of empty cubicles around him.


In HARRY’S TREES, Harry Crane is a walking disaster. The story revolves around his self-perceived bad luck, and his resultant guilt. Though it’s not set in the kind of universe where you can prove magic, there is a lot of evidence of Harry’s disaster aura:

  • His wife is killed in an accident just for being near him. First thing that happens in the book.
  • A switchblade launches itself across the room at someone
  • A public building collapses
  • Most telling of all, he gets into a car crash the moment he tries to hurry anywhere.

As you can see, bad luck is a function of Fate and predestination, in both HARRY’S TREES and THE FRINGE HIKERS. Fate by necessity influences the route an unlucky man must take.


Most importantly, bad luck has strict rules. They can be liberating in their way, but they must be followed. Harry’s rules all proscribe how he must free himself from the curse that killed his wife. He must rid himself of all his money.

“The way you get rid of the money has to be unsafe. It has to be an adventure.”

“Don’t die. It’s one of the rules of the Year One Club. Members aren’t allowed to die.”
“You never die. Unspoken list of Important Things About Harry Crane: Harry was a grum.* Harry was a giver of gold. And Harry, most of all, was a man who wasn’t going to die.”

“Tremble not. Cry not. Perservere against all obstacles.”

Doesn’t this sound a lot like the rules of Fringe Hikers, who cannot die but must spend eternity in ill-fated pursuit of their homes?

  1. Experience Catastrophe (the cursed lottery ticket)
  2. Avoid Annihilation (Harry struggles with suicidal thoughts and his catastrophe-aura)
  3. Push Homeward (the curse will lift when he gets rid of all his money)


There’s even a falcon, Endless Mountains, and a sense of dissociated time – plot element similarities between HARRY’S TREES and THE FRINGE HIKERS.

It even addresses the fringey difficulty of ending a story which is un-endable by definition.

“All the risks… will you face them with me?”



You already know all about the Fringe. Everybody has a story about the Fringe. HARRY’S TREES is one of them, and an excellent one at that. If you like a touch of everyday philosophy in your stories, you’ll like HARRY’S TREES.

*Grum – a troll-like being with a hoard of gold.