Portland is a crumbling hellscape. People defecate in the stairwells of City Hall. The islands of the Columbia River are crowded with homeless camps. The Portland City Council passes Sharia law.
Those are a handful of plot points from two post-apocalyptic book series, 299 Days and A Great State, that describe the collapse of West Coast state governments and the rise of self-sufficient, libertarian societies untethered from federal funding. As it does in the popular conservative imagination, Portland's imagined street anarchy plays an outsized role.
What's more mysterious is who wrote the books.
Last week, The Pacific Northwest Inlander reported the books are being taken seriously—as primers on how to survive an impending government collapse. The Inlander says the books are especially popular with "preppers" close to Washington state Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane). In that story, the Inlander reported that the novels' authors—who go by the pen names Glen Tate and Shelby Gallagher—are actually Greg Overstreet and Anne Marie Gurney. Overstreet worked as an ombudsman for the Washington attorney general a decade ago. Gurney is a 2010 candidate for a Northeast Portland seat in the Oregon House and former director of the Oregon Freedom Foundation, a union-busting nonprofit. WW called Gurney's cellphone and received an email back from Shelby Gallagher, saying Gallagher had written the books and asking WW not to call again.
Gallagher's website says she "writes from her firsthand experience working in and around state capitols and has observed why a collapse is coming and how it may unfold. She is a parent and active prepper." Here's how she envisions New Portland in A Great State.
Chapter 23: Elections Have Consequences
Julie couldn't stop thinking about the riots. They were happening in Portland every day.…People were injured and hospitalized. The mayor of Portland had protesters on his front lawn.
Chapter 62: City Hall
Kandi hadn't been to [Portland] City Hall in some time. The last election season, in fact. The change from then to this moment was shocking. Several of the elevator's glass panels were cracked. It was apparent they had been in that condition for some time. Beleaguered strips of duct tape were zig-zagged over the cracks to buy some time before the glass fully disintegrated.
Several risers of the marble stairs were broken or were missing large chunks. There was a distinct smell of human waste in the air.
Chapter 64: It Gets Worse
As Shawn drove across the I-205 bridge over the Columbia River, Steve watched Portland's skyline slowly fade away.…Glancing up he saw "FUCK YOU!" spray-painted over the Glenn Jackson Bridge freeway sign. The bridge surface looked damaged with spray paint, and was covered in scorch marks where there had recently been fires.
Steve saw two cars burned down to their metal frames surrounded by garbage. Down below, the shoreline was full of homeless tents as far as Steve could see.
Government Island, the island on the Columbia River that ran under the bridge, was now void of its once rich vegetation and trees. The lush forest Steve remembered was gone. There was nothing to see but the tents. Steve cringed at the putrid odor that made its way into the vehicle.
"What a nightmare," Steve muttered as he took in the sight of the Columbia River he hadn't seen since before the collapse.
Chapter 79: The Accused
[The mayor of Portland issues a statement.] "I'm saddened by the events we all witnessed happening right here in Portland. I'm saddened by our president's continued policies regarding immigration. Portland, and Oregon as a state, has a long history of being a sanctuary state. Our laws are clear. Our resolve is solid. We welcome all, regardless of race, religion, or gender. We treat everyone as we want to be treated. That is why I wanted to announce a new city ordinance I will be proposing soon. I will be meeting with community leaders and local clergy to formulate an ordinance to bring before our city's council to recognize Sharia law."