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The Fracking King: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

James Browning
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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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Review

“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

About the Author

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.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2024 KB
  • Print Length: 191 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0544262999
  • Publisher: Little A (1 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FL3YLII
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • : Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #243,062 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

James Browning writes and speaks on environmental issues for Common Cause. He has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. His essays have been published in The Believer and The Village Voice.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
As you can tell from many of the early reviews, comments, one star ratings, and review votes on the Amazon.com U.S. site this book touches upon the very contentious matter of fracking. It's about teenagers at school and fracking. There's one girl at this boys school, (the headmaster's daughter), and there has been a rule change that allows girl(s) into boys' rooms. So, of course, everyone is obsessed with fracking. Where to frack, how to frack, and of course the terrible dangers of fracking. (We all know what a burning stream of liquid is a metaphor for.) I'm being facetious, but that's because the outrage over the fracking issue is way over the top. This is not a screed; it's not even very much about fracking, except as a plot device. While the author is apparently very involved in the real fracking debate, there is no effort to advance some complex anti-fracking agenda in the guise of a novel.

This is, first and foremost, a coming-of-age and school-daze tale. My gosh, the fracking controversy almost makes you lose sight of how cleverly the plot is constructed, how inventive the incorporation of Scrabble into the plot is, and how insightful and charming the narrator is. This book is populated by a number of engaging, appealing, and articulate secondary characters. It is anchored by a narrator/hero who has a clear head, an observant eye, and a compelling sense of the well phrased description and the arresting observation. The plot is a stretch, but that's not really the point. Sharp observations, snappy dialogue, cheerful subversion, and engagement with the world seem to be the prime focus. As a bonus the author is adept at word play and subtle literary jokes, and he employs the hero's obsession with Scrabble to introduce some very elegant and inventive word jokes.
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2.0 out of 5 stars so quitting as better things to do with my time 21 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Haven't got into it having read 25%, so quitting as better things to do with my time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  544 reviews
98 of 123 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly Inventive 1 Jun. 2014
By C.R. Hurst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a former Pennsylvanian and Scrabble lover, I could not resist choosing The Fracking King from this month's Kindle First pre-releases. In this debut novel James Browning exposes the absurdities of hydrofracturing or fracking (yes, this is an acceptable spelling!) with a clever and satirical account about one young Scrabble fanatic, Winston Crwth, who attempts to bring down fracking company, Dark Oil and Gas, by winning a state Scrabble competition and by meeting Pennsylvania's governor, Linda King LaRue. With its breakneck pacing and colorful cast of characters Browning creates a sly and entertaining novel that nevertheless has two important lessons: words do have meaning despite attempts to disguise that meaning, and even misfits can become heroes by fighting against greed and corruption. And although The Fracking King sometimes cartwheels over plausibility in plot, I recommend it as a truly inventive read.

Update: Since reading some of the negative reviews that criticize the style of Fracking King, I thought I would update my review to include a warning to those who dislike satire. Satire is, according to Kindle's New Oxford American Dictionary, "the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics or other topical issues." A classic example of satire is Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal where Swift advocates eating Irish children to fight starvation in 18th century Ireland. Another more contemporary example is The Colbert Report where Stephen Colbert pretends to be a right wing conservative to ridicule right wing conservatives. If you enjoy this type of humor, I still recommend Fracking King as good satire; however, if you do not like ironic humor, I suggest you choose another Kindle First selection.
77 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, Mrs. Lincoln, Apart From That, How Was the Play? 1 Jun. 2014
By Pop Bop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As you can tell from many of the early reviews, comments, one star ratings, and review votes on this site this book touches upon the very contentious matter of fracking. It's about teenagers at school and fracking. There's one girl at this boys school, (the headmaster's daughter), and there has been a rule change that allows girl(s) into boys' rooms. So, of course, everyone is obsessed with fracking. Where to frack, how to frack, and of course the terrible dangers of fracking. (We all know what a burning stream of liquid is a metaphor for.) I'm being facetious, but that's because the outrage over the fracking issue is way over the top. This is not a screed; it's not even very much about fracking, except as a plot device. While the author is apparently very involved in the real fracking debate, there is no effort to advance some complex anti-fracking agenda in the guise of a novel.

This is, first and foremost, a coming-of-age and school-daze tale. My gosh, the fracking controversy almost makes you lose sight of how cleverly the plot is constructed, how inventive the incorporation of Scrabble into the plot is, and how insightful and charming the narrator is. This book is populated by a number of engaging, appealing, and articulate secondary characters. It is anchored by a narrator/hero who has a clear head, an observant eye, and a compelling sense of the well phrased description and the arresting observation. The plot is a stretch, but that's not really the point. Sharp observations, snappy dialogue, cheerful subversion, and engagement with the world seem to be the prime focus. As a bonus the author is adept at word play and subtle literary jokes, and he employs the hero's obsession with Scrabble to introduce some very elegant and inventive word jokes. (A Scrabble savant once left a suicide note in the form of a series of words played in a Scrabble tournament. That's the kind of creativity you'll find here.)

There is some broad, almost slapstick, humor and some quiet moments of earnestness and sincerity. (The relationship between the narrator and his dad is particularly authentic and touching.) But this is not a deep examination of the human condition. This book, rather, is in the honorable modern traditional of sensitive, funny, confused and decent teens making their way into adulthood, and it distinguishes itself with fine, tight, generous humor and insight, and a minimum of snark or ironic detachment. That's fine by me.

It's a shame about all of the darn fracking though.

I got this as a Kindle freebie. I don't know anyone.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story 6 Jun. 2014
By Jennifer L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Had to give this one three stars because while Win is an interesting character, we are introduced to a multitude of characters who aren't fully developed. The author works hard to introduce lots of side stories and subplots but they aren't fully utilized. The writing is great and flows well right until the end. Compared to the rest of the novel, the ending is abrupt and I was left feeling unsatisfied.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous look at serious topic 1 July 2014
By Jeffrey A Raffel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
“The Fracking King” is a novel which combines the best elements of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and Rachel Carson’s “The Silent Spring.” In his junior year a boarding school student faces the complexities of youth and fracking simultaneously and humorously. Author James Browning raises questions about the dangers of fracking through the protagonist, Winston Crwth, who confronts the difficulties of girls, school, and his place in the world. Browning interweaves Crwth’s expertise in Scrabble with an inside look at Scrabble tournaments and, better yet, allows the reader to learn some great words to use in Words with Friends (ae, oe, brhbrh). Browning’s experience as a Common Cause lobbyist provides insights into the workings of the PA legislature and the methods of big corporation lobbyists yet the author avoids the temptation to have his characters give long-winded didactic speeches. Browning’s parody is at times funny, at times poignant, and at times frightening. It is a good read which will make you nostalgic about your youth, interested in word games, and upset about environmental degradation.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 2 July 2014
By Rachel Roebuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I hadn't been able to get back into reading but I couldn't put this book down! I'm a sucker for plots that happen subtlety, and this one was perfect.
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