Fracture Gradient



It’s the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan is President, and America has recovered from the crippling energy shortages of the 1970’s when OPEC nearly squeezed oil-dependent economies to death. But now the U.S. energy industry is faltering as OPEC again manipulates the international oil markets to wrestle back dominance and force America to her knees one more time.

Out of nowhere, rumors of an astonishing alternative energy discovery suddenly emerge and threaten to reshuffle the international balance of power, destroy OPEC, and make the world energy self-sufficient. Fletcher Boyd and Hollis Cade own it . . . for what it’s worth and at least for now. Information insidiously leaks and all hell breaks loose as Big Oil, OPEC, and governments explode into action. Who can be trusted? Can a handful of ruggedly individualistic underdogs withstand the massive assault from highly trained government operatives and corporate security forces?

What seems simple is not. What seems logical is not. Energy is power and power means everything to those who wield it. But Fletcher and Hollis don’t bend or bow; they’re hard men who think for themselves and are willing to fight for principle and what’s theirs.

Deadly intrigue, numbing twists, and exhilarating action will rivet you to your chair as a question chafes somewhere in the dark recesses of your psyche . . . an itch that can’t be scratched. Has this happened?

What else will you find in Fracture Gradient? You will find breathtaking action and adventure in the international oil and gas industry, Texas, Saudi Arabia, OPEC and Saudi Aramco, ham radio, private jets, F-4 Phantoms fighting an F-14 Tomcat over northern Minnesota, general aviation carnage, and a fascinating peek into the concept of hydrogen power derived from a very common substance! Not enough? Well, then there are the US military veterans fighting for their lives, plenty of gunplay, a damaged marriage, and astounding wealth up for grabs!

13 thoughts on “Fracture Gradient

  1. I was recently interviewed by Renaldo Garcia of Texas Public Radio. Here is the interview transcript which has been lightly edited for readability.

    Renaldo: Today we’re talking to Jim McCulloch, author of the action novel Fracture Gradient which is set in the great state of Texas. Jim spent much of the 1980’s living in Texas and now resides in the Portland, Oregon area. Welcome to the show, Jim.

    Jim: Thanks, Renaldo. Thanks for having me on.

    Renaldo: So, tell our listeners what your novel, Fracture Gradient, is about.

    Jim: Fracture Gradient is a story, set in the Texas oilfields, about a low-cost, green, alternative energy discovery that threatens the very existence of the international oil industry. As you might imagine, the industry desperately wants to control or destroy the discovery to save itself.

    Renaldo: Now you worked with The Western Company of North America out of Fort Worth in the 1980’s, right? Eddie Chiles and company for those old enough to remember.

    Jim: Yes, I did and that’s where the idea and characters came from. I worked in the Fort Worth corporate office before being assigned to districts in Alice, Edinburg, and Brian in various capacities. The domestic oil industry began contracting in the early 80’s and it was a rough ride for a number of years.

    Renaldo: Did you start with the story or with the characters?

    Jim: Good question, Renaldo. It was kind of a mix of the two. The oil industry was a fascinating place to work during the 80’s and many of the people I worked with were real characters. I thought of the story first but couldn’t have made it happen without including some of the bigger than life personalities I had the privilege of working with.

    Renaldo: So, it was your actual experience with the industry and the people you worked with that motivated you to think of the story? Is much of it actually true?

    Jim: The first part of the story setting up the discovery is based on my experience but once they make the discovery it become pure fiction.

    Renaldo: Interesting. I think many people have stories they would like to turn into novels but most never get anything down on paper. What led you to actually start writing?

    Jim: Well, I’ve always enjoyed action adventure type novels, and have been a reader since childhood. I lost my job when the industry was at its lowest point in the late 80’s and was reading a lot while looking for another job. I was consistently irritated by what I perceived as poorly written novels that contained factual errors or where the author was writing non-sensical things they clearly didn’t know anything about into their novels. I complained enough that my wife tired of listening to me. She finally asked, “If you’re so smart, why don’t you write one yourself?” Fracture Gradient is the result, although it took me a long time to finish it.

    Renaldo: So, the story moves to pure fiction once you set up the discovery. I’m guessing the characters, which you said were based on real people, continued along in the story. Wasn’t that difficult? I mean, wasn’t it difficult to put your real-life friends in fictitious situations?

    Jim: Just the opposite, Renaldo. I was initially having difficulty fleshing out characters and dialog using purely fictional characters and it became much easier once I substituted people I knew because I could see and hear in my head how they would react and speak based on my knowledge of them in real life. It made writing much easier for me.

    Renaldo: I hadn’t thought of that but it makes good sense. Let’s look at this inexpensive green energy discovery you built into the story. Isn’t that idea pretty far-fetched? What is it and how did you come up with it?

    Jim: It was very far-fetched when I came up with in it 1987. I needed a discovery that would be technically possible and plausible enough to not alienate readers with some chemistry background. This was pre-internet era so I went to the local library with a yellow pad of paper, pulled a few chemistry books off the shelf, and began reading and taking notes. I found information on the concept of converting seawater into hydrogen-based fuel. It was largely theoretical at that time. A few months later I found a new job where I met a chemistry major. I asked her to read my notes and that section of the manuscript. She changed the language I had used enough that a chemist would find it a delightfully silly but theoretically possibility . . . and it became part of Fracture Gradient. By the time I published, the US Navy was actively creating jet fuel from seawater. They had begun serious research in 2006 and had it in production by 2014. It’s very expensive but cheaper than sending tankers of jet fuel out to refuel at sea. Who knows where the concept will go in the future?

    Renaldo: That is fascinating and something I have never heard. You said Fracture Gradient deals with how the traditional energy industry would deal with such a discovery. Why hasn’t the Navy’s work impacted the oil industry?

    Jim: In Fracture Gradient, the cost of the alternative product was pennies per barrel due to the theoretical science I used and would clearly destroy much of the traditional oil industry. In real life, the Navy’s version is cost prohibitive except for refueling while at sea and in emergencies. I think the international oil industry would react if it were about to be destroyed but they are in no danger of that happening right now. Is there a viable alternative to fossil fuel out there? I don’t know the answer but it makes for good fiction for now.

    Renaldo: Okay, let’s say such a discovery is possible. Do you really think the oil industry would resort to deception and violence if such a discovery actually occurred?
    Jim: Are you asking me if I think an international multi-trillion-dollar industry upon which modern civilization is based would react with violence to control or suppress such a discovery?

    Renaldo: Yes, that’s the question. I can’t see gunfights in our Texas streets over it.
    Jim: How do you think major oil companies would react? How would energy-dependent countries in the Middle East which depend on oil sales for all their revenue respond?

    Renaldo: Good questions I hadn’t thought through. I see huge economic upsides for humanity once such a discovery was put to use.

    Jim: Yes, there would be huge benefits but there would be huge losers as well as winners. There would be a paradigm shift in world economics which is why the book is entitled Fracture Gradient. Economic models would be fractured and there could be blood in the streets as a result.

    Renaldo: It is a fascinating subject to contemplate and an excellent reason to read Fracture Gradient. Where can our listeners find Fracture Gradient, Jim?

    Jim: It’s available online through all major bookstore sites as well as on Amazon in both print and digital formats. Your listeners can also learn more about it through my blog on Type in Jim McCulloch or Fracture Gradient and it will take you to my page. Same goes for where I also have an author page.

    Renaldo: Before we leave, Jim, tell us a little about the authors you enjoy reading so our listeners can get a feel for what type stories have inspired you as a writer.

    Jim: Boy, that’s tough off the cuff, but I enjoy realistic action adventure novels. Some of my favorite authors are Nelson DeMille, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Clive Cussler. I also enjoy Phillip Margolin and Wilbur Smith. There are so many excellent authors out there it’s hard not to forget some, but those are my favorites.

    Renaldo: We’ve been talking to Jim McCulloch, author of Fracture Gradient. Thanks for sharing some background on your novel, Jim. Best of luck with your fascinating story.

  2. Jim,
    I thoroughly enjoyed Fracture Gradient. The level of detail you used made me wonder how accurate it really was so I spent some time on the internet checking some of it out. Things about the OPEC countries, the airplanes, people at ARAMCO, the radio direction finding, and if and when the 4th Infantry Division was really in Viet Nam. I even followed along on an atlas when the men were traveling. What really surprised me was some of the back story detail with your Arab family. My hat is off to you. The detail is amazing and absolutely correct. Congrats on a terrific book! Can’t wait for the next one.

  3. Thanks for the interesting perspective and comments, D. Redmond. I’m glad you enjoyed JT and Katie. He and many of the other characters were based upon people I knew working in the energy industry in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. JT is a dynamic man in real life, also. Katie was a bright woman who viewed the world through a different prism than did her husband and his friends. She was included to offer perspective and viable alternatives.

    Yes, the logical direction would have been to find a lawyer and file for patent protection. Hollis suggested it early on but they decided that Westcona would try to take Neptune regardless of their legal claim. Had Fletcher and Hollis taken Neptune to a lawyer and sought legal protection, I would have been out a story, or it would have become a legal thriller instead. I’ll leave the legal thrillers to John Grisham, Philip Margolin, and the other lawyers who write that genre. Then there is the issue of whether or not the courts would really protect people like them with such a discovery. I’m skeptical, but that’s just me.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and for purchasing Fracture Gradient.

  4. Just finished Fracture Gradient. Knew a lot of oil field people back in Kansas and you created good characters, especially JT. He was a full rounded character. You had the ingredients for a good plot, but I had a question about its logic. Why didn’t the men hire a lawyer and get a patent on their discovery? I kind of agreed with Katie, who seemed to have the most insight and understanding of the whole picture.

    I’m glad that I read this and I wish you well on your next project.

  5. Thanks so much, Wyatt. I did my best to make everthing in the story realistic. Feel free to add your review to the Fracture Gradient Amazon page. The more books I can sell the quicker the next one will be out 🙂 Thanks again for the support.

  6. I loved the book just finished reading for the second time. If I remember correctly I got it thru the arrl web site. This story has it all Airplanes, guns, radio, and outdoor adventure. The writing is so real one continuously has to wonder is this fiction or documentary.

    My next question is when is your next book going to be available?

    73’s WY4TT

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Carol. I’m really glad you enjoyed the story, and hope you tell your friends about it!

  8. First saw mention of your book on, of all places, Facebook. It sounded interesting and plausible. So I purchased it fromAmazon (unable to find it locally) and really enjoyed reading it. Hoping you have more great reads in you which you will share.

    Yes, The Western Company was the best company I ever worked for . . . while it lasted! Not sure if it really was or if we just think that because we were young and full of energy at the time. Got lots of fracking done in any regard. Thanks for buying the book Jerry, and thanks for making some memories in Lindsay. Nobody would believe some of the stuff that went on, eh? 🙂 Jim

  10. Am reading your book can already see things that really happened. You had to have been there and lived it. thanks again
    They were fun days weren’t they, Jerry? Hope you enjoy the rest of the story!

  11. Thanks, CC! I appreciate the kind commments. You identified some of my favorite authors, too so mentioning my name in the same sentence with theirs is a real thrill. I was saddened by the passing of Vince Flynn and already miss his stories.

    Thanks again for reading Fracture Gradient. People will wonder about our “73” . . . and will have to read the book to figure it out!

  12. Jim,

    Great read and engrossing story. Good luck on your writing career ! 62 year old retired guy here, and I enjoyed every minute of it. So now in addition to Clancy, Brad Taylor, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn……I can add McCulloch to my list of favorites. Good luck to you.

    C.C. McCoy

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