The beauty of weaving an anti-fracking agenda into a work of fiction is that drilling for natural gas can be demonized without a burden of proof. It is fiction after all.
And it’s precisely what James Browning did with his novel, “The Fracking King.” The July 1 release was not classified as young adult literature, but read like it. The hardcover ranked 37,351 in books on Amazon Best Sellers rankings as of July 21. Barnes and Noble said the book’s sales rank was 436,599 the same day.
Browning is the Regional Director of State Operations for Common Cause, a left-wing group that liberal, billionaire, George Soros gave more than $3 million to since 2000. The group wants to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling and complains on its website about money in politics, even though it takes money from Soros who wants to fundamentally reshape America.
Browning’s anti-hydraulic fracturing position was no secret prior to this book. In 2011, Browning co-wrote an anti-fracking report called “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets,” for Common Cause. It looked at political funding and alleged corruption. His fracking bias was evident even on the website for the novel, which included a negative description of hydraulic fracturing, a link to his Common Cause report and the mention of Groundswell Rising, a film about people “fighting back” against the fracking industry.
“The Fracking King” tells the story of Scrabble-obsessed Winston Crwth (rhymes with truth) as he heads to Hale Boarding School on a scholarship, from Dark Oil & Gas. The names alone simplistically distinguished hero from villain. However, the Scrabble-related plot points were difficult to follow and occasionally the dialogue was very confusing.
In addition to the complicated Scrabble plotline, the novel’s descriptions often felt absurd: from grass that is painted green because it isn’t growing to scary-eyed truckers and protesters intentionally drinking “frack” fluids to expose the danger.
Browning kicked off the book with the a typical anti-fracking tactic. The scary imagery of combustible water. The cover art also depicts flames coming out of a coffee mug. Chapter 1 began, “The first person I ever saw light Fitler’s water on fire was my old roommate Rich ... He was smoking by the sink when the water burst into flames and an orange fireball shot up to the ceiling.” Much later in the book, sick cows and bad milk were mentioned. Perhaps Browning was one of the few people who watched Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.”
Flaming water was also an iconic image in anti-fracking activist filmmaker Josh Fox’s movie “GasLand,” but the instance he claimed was related to gas drilling wasn’t, according to Popular Mechanics magazine. Another instance used by Fox was the Lipskys’ water in Texas. A judge ruled against them in 2012 saying they attached their garden house to a gas vent “to provide local and national news media a deceptive video.”