Disillusioned after years of success as an environmental reporter in Miami, Tip Tyler takes solace in crafting artisanal apple brandy off the grid in Virginia’s history-steeped Piedmont. But the isolation of his boyhood orchard ends abruptly when estranged daughter Marley smashes two deer – two purple deer – on a sunset drive through the autumn-tinged hollows of Rappahannock County.
Their Blue Ridge haven lies blissfully beyond The Beltway, the allure obvious: No stoplights, fast-food chains or supermarkets to disrupt the views, the arts, the locavore delights. No wonder Rappahannock welcomes D.C.’s gossip-page socialites and CIA chieftains into a diverse stew seasoned with Virginia gentlemen and trophy wives.
As bucolic as life is amid the county’s organic farms, oak forests and pre-Revolution villages, environmental menace lurks with the surreptitious arrival of fracking – the high-volume drilling for natural gas pocketed deep below in the Marcellus Shale.
The belated deer drank frackwater, drilling’s toxic stepchild, trucked in to the backwater estate Burlwood in adjoining Mosby County. Big Oil n’ Gas doesn’t want you to know what’s in fracking’s briny ABC of nasty bits: A as in arsenic, B as in benzene …
Tip soon encounters project manager Roxx Bleigh, a comely GenX engineer flying up her company’s ladder. She’s tasked to “get ‘er done” for Burlwood scions Burl and Woody Spink and their ethically bankrupt consigliere, Supervisor Milton Smythe.
Despite culture shock – cell service? Fugetaboutit – things break her way at first as she meets Rappahannock’s oddball vintners, beekeepers, migrant farmworkers and the gay sheriff. Roxx catches the eye of Tip’s rancher pal Provo Starke as well as the attention of industry execs desperate to put a positive face on fracking.
A man of scientific fact and objectivity, descendant of the First Families, Tip Tyler spars with country pastors and peckerwoods, wrestles with new technology and his family foibles, and finds himself sucked into swirling drama as fracking threatens to take hold in this seriocomic, Silent Spring-meets-Carl Hiaasen tale.
“Fraccidents” occur. Bullets fly. Tankers explode. Earthquakes rattle Rappahannock’s windows and its citizens’ faith, but there’s always room for a fine claret and frisky sex. The ecological woe threatening the Piedmont’s pristine hills and streams drives this present-day tussle of power and politics playing out across an America eager to see fracking succeed – but at what cost? Tip and Marley must tap quirky friends, reliable sources and the urbane, smarter-than-they-seem crowd of from-heres and come-heres who share Rappahannock County’s good life – if only they can keep it that way.