Author seeks to educate

Joel Burcat wanted to educate people about the natural gas industry, particularly its impact on a small Pennsylvania community.

As a fiction writer, he takes a little different approach without taking sides on the often-controversial issue.

His novel, “Strange Fire,” is meant to inform but also entertain readers.

In a recent interview with the Sun-Gazette, Burcat described the recently published book as an environmental thriller.

As a retired environmental attorney, writing a story about a fight between the gas industry and landowners was like a calling for Burcat.

“I wanted to write a book about fracking,” he said. “I knew a lot about it. Bradford County seemed like a good place for it.”

Burcat, 67, of Harrisburg, strived to present both sides of the issue in his story.

“I want people who are pro-fracking to learn about the environmental perspective. I want anti-fracking people to learn something from the drillers,” he said. “The divide in this country is awful.”

At the same time, he acknowledged he does have an opinion on the matter.

“I would love to see us move away from fossil fuels. This war in Ukraine is demonstrating we need to do this,” he said. “On the other hand, I don’t want to beat people over the head with my perspective.”

In Burcat’s novel, the water supply serving residents of a small Bradford County community has been contaminated, possibly by the round-the-clock operations of Yukon Oil and Gas.

Contractors disappear and a young and impassioned government attorney is a principal character in the story.

Burcat had long wanted to write and his many years practicing environmental law gave him the background for the story.

“One thing I try to do in all of my books is bring in a lot of science and engineering,” he said.

However, he is quick to note he does not want to bore the reader with either science or engineering, but rather, blend them into the story.

“Strange Fire” is Burcat’s third work of fiction.

His two previous novels in the environmental thriller genre, include “Amid Rage,” pitting a coal mine operator against neighbors fighting out a strip mine permit battle.

“The environment is something I know,” he said. “I feel I can make a contribution.”


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