Still Water

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ISBN: 978 0 9569643 0 4 – first edition
ISBN: 978 0 9569643 5 9 – second edition

Amazon Kindle locations:
USA; UK; Australia; Brazil; Canada; France;
Germany; India; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Spain

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I planned this thriller to have a truly global canvas. I also came up with the idea of starting each chapter or sub-chapter with a Google Earth™ reference so my reader could actually look at the place where the action was unfolding. This also allowed me to ‘walk through’ my proposed tale while viewing the actual location. I thought this was a great concept and sought Google’s approbation, but like many Internet entities actually speaking with anyone proves pretty tough. A decade later, I have not seen anyone else take up this approach.

My hero for this tale was an English celebrity oceanographer and Earth scientist, he was no Jack Reacher or Jack Bauer, instead he was a capable guy being pitched into remarkable situations. The villain was not an individual but instead a new form of water discovered in the Arctic. Initially it would be unclear if it was the result of old material released by melting Arctic ice, or if it has been formed by Russian pollution or nuclear waste, or whether it had fallen there from space. But, this ‘still water’ killed all forms of life it touched, and yet was still chemically water.

There lay my problem, I was determined that it should be chemically plausible and so researched water extensively. Water is strange anyway, given that we accept as perfectly normal that water may naturally appear as solid ice, liquid water or gaseous steam. Imagine my surprise when I found there was a substance called deuterium oxide or D²O, that exists in the ocean. It is often found in comets, and the water found on Mars has 5.5-times that on Earth. In small quantities it is not toxic, but large quantities delivered what I needed.

Pegasus Cover Proof
‘Water is strange.  It occurs naturally as ice, water or steam.  But there is nothing natural about this new ‘still water’ that destroys any life that it touches!’

The Brotherhood, is a Russian Mafiya-led group, able to reach right in to the Russian military, scientific and political corridors of power.  It uses this new water to settle old scores, to eliminate rivals, to extort the powerhouse economies of India and China they fear will supplant Russia’s resurgent superpower status.

Two Brits, whose careers have regularly put them into conflict, clash again in the Galápagos.  They become entangled as they seek to understand what this awful water is, what it can do, just how to stop it.  Where does it come from?  Is it from climate change melting the Arctic ice, from Russian pollution and nuclear waste, or has it crashed here to Earth from elsewhere?

While they puzzle, still water attacks have to be confronted across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia – for towns, cities, entire races are threatened with death and destruction.  Top government advisors offer little hope of countering these threats, the only hope is to take out The Brotherhood, seize its supplies of this sinister material before it enters the Water Cycle.

Kabitisin, the Mafiya boss, sees, and plans to seize, his destiny using this powerful new ‘weapon’.  The pace is frantic, the team dares not go public with details of the extent of the danger – it would cause a worldwide panic.  From Kazakhstan, The Congo, Kurdistan, along the Danube and beside the Mekong the battle is joined all the way to a final confrontation at the ex-Soviet Arctic nuclear test-site islands.

The world’s water supply – and mankind – has never faced a greater challenge!

Deuterium was good news for my plot, but not for rats. In laboratory tests on rodents, when up to 15% of a rodent’s body water is replaced by D²O there is little obvious effect except that the creature does not gain weight normally. As the D²O percentage of body water rises the rodent gets more excitable, until at the 25% level it may convulse and become very aggressive. By the time the D²O content reaches 30% it refuses to eat and can fall in to a coma. If the substance continues to be increased until it reaches 35%, then the rat dies. The good news is that if the researcher stops before the 35% point is reached and puts the rodent back on normal water, then it can still recover and quite quickly.

With the time and freedom in Spain I finished the book in around eighteen months and began the round of letters to agents and publishers and the inevitable rejections.

Rudyard Kipling submitted a short story to a San Francisco newspaper and was advised by the editor, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.’

‘It is very long and rather old-fashioned’ was the comment Herman Melville received for ‘Moby Dick’.

Sixteen agents and twelve publishers rejected John Grisham’s first novel, ‘A Time to Kill’.

Dan Brown was rejected and told his manuscript of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was ‘so badly written’.

J K Rowling submitted her Harry Potter manuscripts via an agent and was rejected eight times.

Agatha Christie was rejected twenty times across five years before she broke through to become the best-selling novelist of all-time.

Robert M. Pirsig’s ‘Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ had 121 rejections.

Alex Haley’ received 200 rejections for ‘Roots’.

C S Lewis is top of the shop amassing 800 rejections before selling any of his writing.

I was accepted by Pegasus Publishers for their imprint Vanguard Press, we agreed a three-book deal as a series with the same hero. I was already well into writing the second.

The fact of becoming a published author seemed to be enough for several months. But as you work with an editor to shake down the manuscript, chose the cover artwork, wrote the blurb and so on, you realise that actually what you want is to be a successful, published author. It became clear that Vanguard was not doing much to make that happen.

They set the publishing date to meet the summer tourist reader market, but when I asked which booksellers they had approached, they had done nothing with those at Heathrow or Gatwick. Their list of those they had contacted were just a subset of south-east locations. Worse, when I asked about review copies being issued, they said they waited for a reviewer to request these. I paid a friendly PR to send releases to a database of TV, radio and news reviewers and to follow these up to get requests for review copies placed.

So therefore, in 2014, I sent out this press release to create some interest, it was sent to all national and regional newspapers:

Water – the next battlefield!
Less than a fortieth part of the Earth’s fixed water supply is not salty and therefore useable. Two-thirds of this is semi-permanently frozen at the poles and in glaciers, the rest is not in the most convenient of places and often comes in monsoons and floods making it downright unhelpful.

2020 vision, looking forward!  Currently two-thirds of the water we have is vitally used in maintaining our agriculture. The massive growth in global population will mean the agricultural requirement alone by the year 2020 will be 17% more than we actually have! (World Water Council)

So when the river runs dry the only course of action will be to take others’ supplies.  That’s why over two hundred treaties were signed in the last fifty years, but these didn’t stop over 500 water conflicts!  Around 300 rivers define national boundaries, a tenth of them have more than five nations sharing the river’s course – the Danubeserves eighteen nations!  In the UK’s case while we don’t river-share, we have allowed foreign ownership of our waters!

We’ve all heard a great deal about our ‘carbon footprints’ – but as one of the main characters in this new thriller says ‘…it’s your water footprint that will creep up behind you and kill you! ‘ 

But this is not fiction – it’s a real issue!
Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of violent conflict.’ Kofi Annan ex Secretary-General of the UN. 

‘Water demand is increasing three times as fast as the world’s population growth rate… Some 1.2 billion people lack a safe water supply and 2.4 billion live without secure sanitation.  At least five million people die yearly from water related diseases, including 2.2 million children under the age of five.’ 3rd World Water Forum

Still Water by Bob Denton

This new action novel addresses this very issue, highlighting the global concerns when a form of water is discovered that kills all life it touches – the world must try to secure its water from such a threat.

The thriller takes place right around the world, from the Galápagos, off the shores of Thailand’s Similian
Islands, into Kazakhstan, atop the world in Lhasa, beside the Congo, in Kurdistan, along the Danube, beside the Mekong, coming to a chilling climax on Russia’s nuclear test site islands in the Arctic.

This new action novel addresses this very issue, highlighting the global concerns when a form of water is discovered that kills all life it touches – the world must try to secure its water from such a threat.
The thriller takes place right around the world, from the Galápagos, off the shores of Thailand

A unique approach adopted by the author is that each section of the book provides the reader with a valuable Google Earth™ reference – so they can fully appreciate where the action is unfolding.

Water footprints?
This is simply the expenditure in precious water that a product or service consumes.  The same character, Professor Groves, in “Still Water” perhaps explains this best:
‘…You see that small cup of coffee that each of you is drinking.  Well,in growing the beans for that some 140 litres of water were expended, and even the single sheet of A4 paper that Sir Joseph has been doodling upon used up 10 litres of water in terms of the tree’s growth and the paper manufacture.  And just as another example, Admiral, your smart pair of leather shoes swallowed up 8,000 litres of water.’

‘…it takes sixteen times the water to produce a kilo of meat, than it does for a kilo of wheat.  Just imagine if all those Asian vegetarians espoused our western red meat culture.  We seem to be trying to sell them our way of life yet each “convenient” McDonald’s hamburger, or anyone else’s for that matter, uses up a stunning 2,400 litres of water.’

‘…the USA uses 2,500 cubic metres of water, per year, per head of population.  That compares with, for example, China at just 700.  Given the huge populations of China and India and their current rate of growth, just what would happen if all of their populations demanded the same water consumption as an American?’ 

And rest assured that they will!

As the action unfolds the Russian Mafiya gang holding the world to ransom explains why water is so vital:
‘Water abounds on our Earth, it wouldn’t be the Earth without water.  We humans are around two-thirds water, up here in our brains we’re nearer 85% water, so it cannot be more vital to us.  It maintains our temperature, it helps us breathe and digest food and lubricates our moving parts…’   ‘…We can live without shelter for as long as we like, we can go for perhaps a month without food, but we would last only three to five days without water.’

In the novel those trying to stop the attacks cannot help but admire the effectiveness of the “still water”:
‘…As a weapon it could be even more effective than a neutron bomb.’  …‘You may recall that was designed to minimise any material damage while killing the humans on the battlefield, but this water seems to manage all of that together with the effective seizing up of any industrial plant without apparently damaging it.’  …‘Let’s toast, the perfect weapon.’

We are all downstream!
Western Daily Press article to promote Still Water

Following this we arranged for press articles, the most notable in the Western Daily Press (tugging on local boy’s done good theme) and several Spanish papers (local ex-pat author done good).

The book’s message about the increasingly worrying world shortage of water was well received, but it never took off given its lack of promotion and living in Spain I couldn’t drum up business around the bookstores.

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