A FORMER news editor who now lives Down Under has fulfilled a lifetime ambition by writing and publishing a novel.
Solid Oil is an exciting thriller by Russell Hunter, formerly news editor at the Evening Leader from 1973 to 1978.
He now lives in northern Australia with his partner and two daughters and works as a freelance online writer.
The novel is set in the murky world of eco-terrorism and features several real-life experiences.
“I suppose you could call it an eco-thriller though the description is overused,” says Russell. “It’s mostly set in Papua New Guinea, Canberra and Washington with cameo appearances by Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hong Kong and Monte Carlo.
“The story revolves around the pursuit of lithium, a light metallic element used in batteries and nuclear bombs and found in rain forests. There’s a Vietnamese gangster after the precious resource and the first woman US president who has her own plans for it.”
Added to this mix are murder, corruption and a full-blooded hurricane to create a riveting read in the manner of John Le Carre and Ken Follett.
The book was not easy to write, explains Dundee-born Russell.
“I started on Solid Oil in about 1995 but my computer was damaged en route from Sydney to Fiji in 1996. I made the mistake of accepting the paper’s IT expert's offer to fix it, telling him that under no circumstances was he to wipe the hard drive. He did!
“When I returned to Australia from Samoa, I took up the story again.”
Russell has ‘previous’ with violent criminals. While working as a newspaperman in Fiji in 2008, he was abducted from his home at night, by soldiers of the military dictator who took power at gunpoint in December 2006.
“He wanted total control of everything, including the media,” said Russell. “I took a very firm line against this in the paper and clearly had to go. A gang of squaddies – not in uniform, in fact it was denied that they were military until that position was no longer tenable – arrived at the house and took me to a secret location overnight before marching me on to a plane for Sydney the following morning, despite a court order obtained in the meantime, that I was not to be removed from the country.
“My daughter, then 13, was traumatised seeing her father being forced into a car by seven men in the middle of the night.”
Extreme weather, also featured in the book is also part of Russell’s personal experience.
“I've survived hurricanes in Fiji and Australia and was stranded on a small island by Hurricane Gavin in Fiji in 1998.
“It’s scary stuff. You have to lock everything down, find a safe room, one without outside walls if possible, and camp there till it passes. The noise is awful.”
Despite the setbacks, the book has been published in the United States and is available from Amazon as a free download and as a Kindle copy, and it even has its own Facebook page, just search for ‘Solid Oil.’