About Me

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I received teaching and engineering degrees and have traveled extensively, living ten years outside the US. I moved from the big city of Houston to a small sleepy community in North Carolina, which has been a tremendous change and a great inspiration for my novels, full of the local color. My time has been filled with writing and helping to physically construct three additions to our former farmhouse. I have a great view of the mountains ten miles away across the broad valley and the sunsets are breathtaking. I am an avid reader of all kinds of mystery and contemporary fiction.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do Hurricanes Really Change Lives?

Today, as I was sipping my 20-year Cockburn port, I was reminiscing about my days as a Mechanical Engineer in a large refinery in Texas. Even when the hurricane was close to the coast and the local news station said that everyone should stay home, the refinery in which I worked said that everyone should report to work. Against everything in my being, I did go to work, only to be told around noon to go home. In the meantime, the management asked that I go around and see why other people were not at work. Some were afraid for their spouses and others were too afraid to come to work.

I knew a lot of people who were, as we all know, human. They had lives with children, loves and a hatred for the hurricanes. As I reminisced about those days, I remembered a book I read about a hurricane devastating a chemical plant and the lives of those who worked there. I honestly believe that this scenario could have happened in real life. What follows is my review of that book, one of only two books that I have reviewed on this blog. The book was called "The Sleeping Dragons of Texas."

Sleeping Dragons is a murder mystery involving people trapped in a chemical plant during a hurricane. They cannot get out because the roads are flooded. They cannot turn off the power and just sit by and wait because that would be like dropping a hot glass into ice water. Red hot steel would snap like glass if cooled too fast. The sleeping dragons are chemicals which would escape and their fiery tongues would lash out in every direction and scorch everyone in their path. The manager is conflicted. Shutdown early and lose your next promotion. Try to get through it without pain. But make a mistake, shutdown too late and people die.
In the midst of all the technical matters are real people. Loving. Lusting. Hating. Helping. Trying to get ahead. Trying to avoid work. Trying to find love. Trying to decide who they are. Real people with real emotions and real problems. How do real people resolve their conflicts? Not generally with murder. But when the opportunity presents itself, real people do kill. When real people lust and love, their reason is conflicted. Murder seems a reasonable choice.

I'm trying to describe the plot without giving it away, but the plot does not go in a straight line. The plot goes around like the winds of the hurricane. Who is guilty and who will go to jail? What can be proven and what cannot? A good murder mystery involves, not only who is guilty, but can they be convicted. Is there clear proof? Interspersed with this are two executives looking back at the murders and trying to make sense of human nature. Something that most of us think are impossible for top executives.

Danger abounds and the danger not only threatens the lives of the people in the plant, but the people in nearby towns. The people in the plant battle the hurricane and the plant, but also worries about their loved ones.

As I said, having worked in a refinery, I found the plot plausible for a chemical plant on the Gulf Coast and not at all beyond imagination. I'm just glad I no longer work at such a plant.

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