Fracking, subterfuge and vested interests combine in author's gripping thriller
PUBLISHED: 08:21 05 November 2018
A Russian oligarch has hacked a rig at a fracking site in Derbyshire and engineers are unaware that the drill is moving towards a geological fault line, risking a huge earthquake.
While that terrifying scenario is not playing out in the real world just yet, it is part of the gripping plot line of Saffron Walden author Mark Wesley’s new novel.
The controversial issue is more relevant than ever as fracking at the UK’s only active shale gas site in Lancashire has been halted for a third time this week by seismic activity.
“The premise of my book started with the question of how you can know where the drilling is taking place once it’s beneath the surface,” Mark said. “How can you be sure it’s where you think it is? So, in the book, a Russian oligarch hacks the system and takes control of the rig and controls where the drilling takes place. The people on the rig think it’s going where they want it to – away from a known geological fault line. The Russian hackers are moving the drill towards the fault.”
The reader knows what is going on but the protagonist, James Stack, doesn’t. The fracking in this book is taking place in Hope Valley in the Peak District and Mark says a large seismic event would risk reaching Manchester - but that’s what the Russians want.
“If the Russians get to the fault and cause a seismic event, it will create such a large event that it would end fracking in the UK and therefore the UK would be forced to look to Russia for gas,” Mark said. “That’s their aim - their aim is to end fracking in the UK so they are dependent on Russia for their gas supply. But James Stack has shares in the fracking company and he wants the drilling to be successful – he’s invested.”
Mark worked with two consultant drilling advisors who helped him write about the technical side of fracking. He said he understands the arguments against fracking - risk of earthquakes and environmental concerns - but he thinks it is a temporary fix while experts work on renewable sources and he hopes we get there one day.
“There will always be people who are strongly against fracking or for it,” he said. “I would rather we didn’t have fossil fuels - I hope eventually there will be a replacement for it. But while we are busy trying to find this solution, we still need fuel. The gas that comes out of fracking is the least polluting and many, many geological surveys will have been done.
“But this book doesn’t take a side – it explores the issues that arise from it. I just wanted to write a thriller which uses the issues that spring from this. I didn’t make a political point.”
Mark, a recently retired motion graphics designer, did find out, however, that hacking the rig is possible.
“In terms of the plot and having the drill hijacked, the consultants I worked with said they were talking about that and decided it was just about doable,” he said. “If someone is capable of hacking something, they will do it.”
Frack! is a follow-up to Mark’s previous book Bangk! and follows the same character. He has also written his third book. Again, it is based on a controversial issue – Islamic terrorism.
“You have got to have a real world to sit your fiction in so people can relate – and it adds to the tension because its issues people recognise and in the news and around them,” he said.
“Everybody says they are going to write a book – I always liked making films in my job and telling stories and creating a good timeline for readers and viewers.
“I didn’t believe I could actually write a book - I originally started writing my first book as a film proposal.”
Frack! is available to buy in Hart’s Books in Saffron Walden or on Amazon.