Books·Canadian

Firebrand

Firebrand: A Tobacco Lawyer's Journey is a book by Joshua Knelman.

Joshua Knelman

On the left side of the red book cover, an illustrated hand attached to a suit sleeve holds what appears to be a cigarette between two fingers. The cigarette is actually the title of the book, "Firebrand" in white and mustard yellow text.

It's the start of the new millennium and a young lawyer is recruited to work for an unnamed multinational company. It isn't until his second interview that the product the company produces is revealed to him: cigarettes. Possibly the most controversial consumer product in human history: seductive, addictive, and deadly—yet completely legal. Over the next decade, he travels the world as he works as legal counsel to successfully market cigarettes in dozens of countries.

Firebrand ventures into the heart of the tobacco industry and the icy paradoxes of capitalism, each chapter a counterintuitive lesson on how cigarette companies, the target of anti-smoking campaigns by health authorities, pivoted and recovered after the seismic 1964 Surgeon General's Report and 200-billion-dollar debt of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement—and are now thriving, drenched in profits from their one billion smokers worldwide. As Mad Men did for the alcohol-fuelled, oversexed, corrupt world of New York advertising, Firebrand does for the even more despised world of big tobacco, in an addictive piece of storytelling that spans the globe. The lawyer's work takes him from manufacturing factories to hocking "sticks" at UK corner store counters; from tacky resorts in Spain and pirate city-states to luxury hotels and Grand Prix events across European and Asian cities. A contemporary tale of our ambiguous times, told through the eyes of an anti-hero created by our corporate age. (From Penguin Random House Canada)

Toronto-based writer Joshua Knelman is an award-winning journalist and editor. He was a founding member of The Walrus magazine. His work includes the co-edited anthology Four Letter Word.

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