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A striking debut novel about boarding school, hardcore Scrabble, and fracking—a new kind of environmental novel by an important voice in the debate about fracking in America.
When the tap water at the Hale Boarding School for Boys bursts into flames, people blame fracking. Life at Hale has always been fraught—the swim test consists of being thrown into the pool with wrists and ankles tied, and a boy can be expelled if he and a girl keep fewer than “three feet on the floor.” But the sight of combustible drinking water and the possibility that fracking is making Hale kids sick turn one student into an unlikely hero in the fight to stop the controversial drilling practice.
Winston Crwth, a Scrabble prodigy whose baffling last name rhymes with “truth,” knows what it’s like to be “fractured,” having grown up with his father in Philadelphia and his mother in California. On Winston’s comic journey to the Pennsylvania State Scrabble Championship, where he hopes to win an audience with beauty-queen-turned-governor Linda King LaRue, he matches wits with Thomasina Wodtke-Weir, the headmaster’s prematurely gray daughter and the most popular (read: only) girl at school; the state poet laureate, whose verse consists of copying out dictionary entries and restroom graffiti; and David Dark, son of the CEO of Dark Oil & Gas, the source of Winston’s scholarship money.
The Fracking King is a fantastically inventive debut about rowing crew, using all your tiles, and trying to save the world.
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“Browning’s clever and engaging debut, with its young Scrabble champion turned unlikely environmental advocate and timely ecological theme, is a funny and thought-provoking tale.” —Booklist
“Browning effortlessly translates his passion for environmental change into a rousing, witty, and enlightening tale of outsiders and Scrabble...[A] playful debut.” —Publishers Weekly
"James Browning has done a remarkable thing: In his bewitching debut novel, he has created a narrator so engaging, it makes you wish the book were twice as long. I will miss Winston Crwth's wry way of telling a story, but I can’t wait to read more of his creator's work." —Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
"A book with a conscience and a heart, The Fracking King weaves a wonderful, important and highly original story, combining the pleasures of a fine novel with the real-world dangers of fracking. James Browning rewards the reader on every level." —Richard North Patterson, author of Fall From Grace
“It's hard to imagine the words ‘enchanting' and 'fracking' describing the same thing but boy, that sums up this sly and delightful juggling act of a novel. Yes, it's about fracking, but it's also about Scrabble and a young man stumbling into heroism. A terrific debut.” —John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation
James Browning writes and speaks on environmental issues for Common Cause. He has a BA from Brown University and an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. His essays have been published in The Believer and The Village Voice.
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