Death in Nostalgia City

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: New mystery book

Author creates a good fracking mystery; here’s how she dug up the story

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By Sherry Knowlton

Topical issues that affect real people are a perfect foundation upon which to construct a suspense novel. And you can’t get much more topical than fracking mixed with government and corporate corruption.  The research I did into fracking uncovered environmental nightmares and much more. That’s why I chose it as the backdrop for my new Alexa Williams novel, Dead of Spring. 

I’ve long considered myself an environmentalist, so I’ve followed the evolution of fracking quite closely, both here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  In my day job, I interact a lot with Pennsylvania state government. That’s given me a front row seat to the contentious debate about whether the Commonwealth should tax fracking companies.  I’ve been concerned that the negative impact of fracking on people and the environment has been overshadowed by the drive for energy independence and economic growth.  That’s what I wanted to explore in Dead of Spring – in a suspense story context.

But what exactly is fracking?  It’s the commonly used term for a natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing.  This process is unique in that the gas wells are drilled, first vertically, and then at a 90-degree angle that can extend as much as a mile both down into the earth and parallel to the surface.  The process has opened up huge swaths of geologic formations known as shale to gas drilling.  In Pennsylvania, the region that is being fracked is known as the Marcellus Shale. 

Fracking has its pros and cons.  It has opened up new reserves of natural gas, lowering energy costs and helping reduce the US reliance on foreign oil. And advocates argue that natural gas is cleaner burning than coal and other fossil fuels.  But the drilling process uses a slurry of toxic chemicals, releases methane into the air and can degrade water supplies. The injection of the fracking waste back into the ground has caused earthquakes.  Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquake activity is well-publicized. Maryland and New York have banned new fracking activity.  But, other states have welcomed fracking’s economic boost. Needless to say, fracking is a controversial issue. 

One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. Although I did considerable additional research, that visit was most enlightening.  Continue Reading →

Need to disappear? Here’s how

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By Lori L. Robinett
Second of two parts

Last time, we talked about how difficult it is to disappear like the character in Fatal  Obsession has to do. As I mentioned, you need cash to survive, you’d have to think about your obligations like pets and your job, and social media adds a whole new level of difficulty to escaping notice in today’s world.  Consider all the other sacrifices you would have to make to truly disappear. Could you do it?  But the better question is, how?

Home – If you can afford it, make a couple of months’ payments in advance to give yourself a cushion. Your landlord/banker will be mad and might try to collect when you do become delinquent, but you’ll be gone by that time. Have your mail held at the post office for as long as possible, so an overflowing mailbox doesn’t tip folks off that you aren’t there. Cancel your newspaper. Think about your neighbors, too.  Tell them you’re moving or going on an extended vacation. This is a prime opportunity for redirection. If your plan is to run to the western United States, tell them you’re going to Florida. Leave clues at your home too, maybe a map or notes about airline tickets. If you have time before you leave, order a bunch of tourist brochures from various locations.

ID – Before you run, gather every piece of identification you own, from your passport to old drivers’ licenses and your library card. There are two schools of thought on this. Some say you should destroy it all. Others say you should take it all with you. Personally, I say take it all with you. Gather it all up in a freezer bag and place it in an inside pocket of your go-bag. If you decide to return to your life at some point, you’ll be glad you have that stuff.

Pictures – Destroy every picture you have of yourself. Every. Single. Picture. The first thing authorities (or whoever is hunting you) are going to do after you are reported missing, will be to look for a current photo of you. Make that as difficult as possible. This has an added bonus. If someone calls the authorities and reports you missing, but they find your home intact, Continue Reading →

Could you disappear?

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By Lori L. Robinett
First of two parts

Hunted, a current TV show, takes regular people and sends them on the run, hunted by professionals. Think how difficult that would be.  Even those in witness protection are sometimes found. But what if you had to hide? Imagine, you witness a murder and the bad guys know you’ve seen their faces, or you’re wrongly accused of a horrible crime.  Perhaps the authorities have confused you with a terrorist who shares your name or, like the main character in my new book, Fatal Obsession, you are pregnant and your unborn child is the subject of an experiment that holds the key to curing cancer, and a rich, powerful man is determined to harvest that research.  Could you disappear?

Consider all the interactions you have with individuals, how many contacts you have, the fingerprints you leave everywhere you go—virtual and real. And consider the sacrifices you would have to make to truly disappear. Could you do it?  The better question is, how?

Cash – Surviving requires money, and this means cash. No more credit cards, no more ATMs, no more PayPal. If you’re like most people, you might have a small amount of cash on you, but how much do you truly have available? If you had to run right now, you could hit an ATM as soon as you leave home and withdraw as much as possible, but most banks limit how much you can withdraw in a day—and you don’t have the luxury of waiting around to withdraw more tomorrow.

By going to the ATM, you’re leaving 2 trails – a digital trail of the withdrawal, plus a visual trail because there is now camera footage of you at the ATM (so the authorities now know what you look like). 

So, what else can you do? Grab things before you bug out that can be converted to cash, like jewelry, watches, cameras and small electronics. Think about things that can be sold for cash at a pawn shop. You’ll be leaving another trail there, because pawn shops keep records, so you want to pawn these things as quickly as possible, as close to home as possible, so you don’t tell your hunters which direction you’re going.

Social media –  Delete all your social media accounts and your email accounts. Delete absolutely everything. Destroy any hard drives that you leave behind. Bear in mind, deleting online accounts doesn’t actually get rid of anything. Once something is on the Net, it’s there forever. That said, you don’t want to make it easy for your hunters or have anything to show up on social media that allows someone else to tag you and thus expose you. Continue Reading →

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