Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tricia Fields

Tricia Fields’s debut novel, The Territory, won the 2010 Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery. She is currently working on her second book in the series. She lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. Fields was born in Hawaii, but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana where her husband is a state trooper.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
In my free time I almost always read fiction, so researching for a new mystery forces me out of my rut. I’ve read some fascinating nonfiction that I wouldn’t typically pick up. A great example – I just finished an excellent book by Tom Zoellner called Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock that Shaped the World. Jon Stewart, from The Daily Show, called it “crazy fascinating,” which is actually a really accurate description of the book.

I grew up in the seventies, in the midst of the Cold War era, when we still thought there was a real chance we’d get vaporized in a nuclear holocaust before graduating high school. The potential for good and evil, all packed into a mineral found inside the earth’s crust, fascinates me. Uranium has the power to end life on earth, and can also bring heat and power to millions – but at a cost. The contradictions are captivating, and that’s what led me to feature uranium in the mystery I’m currently writing.

It was Zoellner’s book that provided me the understanding I needed to write freely about the topic without having to stop and Google every other scene. But don’t get the idea that Zoellner’s book is dry science. Instead, it’s a fascinating account of the bizarre history of uranium, from secret mines in the Congo all the way to the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Most amazing to me were his accounts of the scientists who unlocked the secrets inside the heaviest natural element on earth. Once they understood the instability of the atom, there were an amazing number of discoveries that led directly to the atomic bomb – and what a ride it was.

Zoellner helps the reader navigate the complex science necessary to understand how this misunderstood element still weighs so heavily on our future. He succeeds at illustrating the capacity for horror locked inside this rock without ever becoming melodramatic or using scare tactics. The facts do that just fine on their own.
Visit Tricia Fields's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Territory.

--Marshal Zeringue