Barnes & Noble
Published by: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: November 1, 2013
WINNER OF THE 2015 EPIC eBOOK AWARD, SUSPENSE/THRILLER CATEGORY
and AN AMAZON KINDLE TOP-FIVE BEST SELLER
They’ll pay him a fortune to find a killer tornado for their movie.
He knows the risks all too well, but he never imagined just how dangerous the perfect storm could get.
Chuck Rittenburg was one of the most intrepid storm chasers in the country until a bad decision resulted in the death of a young couple who’d paid to ride along. A decade later— broke, divorced, and estranged from his college-age children—he’s got nothing left to lose. When a film producer offers Chuck one-million dollars to help find and photograph a deadly tornado in Oklahoma, Chuck sees a chance to earn his kids’ respect again—and maybe his own.
The situation quickly becomes about more than tracking a monster tornado for Hollywood. FBI Agent Gabi Medeiros insists on riding along. A burglary ring is targeting tornado-ravaged neighborhoods, and their tactics now include murder.
With the stage set for a major heist, a deadly supercell, and a confrontation between Man and Nature on an epic scale, Chuck and his crew will be lucky to escape in one piece.
"Buzz Bernard’s latest thriller takes us along as a disgraced storm chaser strives to regain his ruined career, connect with his alienated son, and win a deliciously sleazy movie producer’s million-dollar reward for film of an EF-5 tornado. On board for the chase is a female FBI agent with her own issues who’s chasing two brothers who use their storm-chasing skills to loot destroyed homes and stores. It’s a wild ride you don’t want to abandon to eat or sleep." —Jack Williams, author and founding USA Today Weather Page editor
"Buzz Bernard’s new novel is a compelling drama packed with real-world science. Supercell races along with all the speed of a twister . . . and carries through to its final, thrilling conclusion." —Michael Wallace, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, The Righteous
"Buzz Bernard has succeeded in writing a captivating book that not only helps inform people about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but gives a glimpse into the challenges, frustrations, dangers, and—sometimes—successes of storm chasing. He has woven this into a drama filled with interesting characters and an exciting plot." —Greg Forbes, Severe Weather Expert, The Weather Channel
Behind the Scenes
The challenge of writing Supercell was different from that of creating Eyewall. In Eyewall, a “meteorological thriller” with a violent hurricane as its centerpiece, the ratcheting up of suspense was relatively easy and almost automatic. The tension and danger built steadily as my fictional Hurricane Janet increased in fury and lumbered toward the coast, in essence, stalking my protagonists.
Events with a hurricane evolve over a period of hours or days. That allows a related story to evolve in a similar time frame, thus giving a novelist plenty of temporal space in which to craft his or her drama.
The challenge was different with Supercell. Since the average life span of a tornado is less than ten minutes, it was obvious I couldn’t use the same approach in Supercell that I did in Eyewall. While a hurricane can provide a sustained setting of threat and violence, a tornado is a short-lived explosion of savagery. Wham-bam and it’s over.
Thus, the idea of creating a novel around a twister stalking my heroes was a none starter.
But, I thought, what if I reversed roles? What if I had my primary characters stalking a tornado, not the other way around? Thus, the seed of Supercell was planted and I began to outline the drama. (The outlining, by the way, at least initially, is done mostly in my head over a period of weeks.) Gradually, with enough tilling and fertilizing, the characters and major turning points in the tale emerged.
While Supercell is a work fiction, a product of my imagination, several of the scenes in the book were inspired by a tornado chase I went on with Silver Lining Tours (www.silverliningtours.com) in 2012.
Specifically, the pursuit of a supercell from Levelland, Texas, toward Lubbock by two brothers featured in the book was based on a chase I participated in. The big difference was that in the novel, the cell spun out a destructive twister. Although the storm I pursued with Silver Lining was big and black and mean, it didn’t drop a tornado. It did, however, coat the ground with a blanket of hail several inches deep. It left the roads on the south side of Lubbock looking as if they’d been smacked by a High Plains blizzard.
Another scene inspired by the chase I was on was the one in which Chuck Rittenburg, the book’s protagonist, leads the film crew into a hailstorm along the Red River in Texas, then seeks shelter from the storm’s massive hail stones in a car wash. Silver Lining Tours ran an intercept on a big hailstorm in the same area and also hunkered down in a car wash. But the storm we tracked weakened and the hail core lumbered by just north of us, so we never witnessed the giant chunks of ice depicted in the novel.
I learned a lot about supercells on the chase, mainly drawing on the vast knowledge of Silver Lining Tours gracious co-owner, Roger Hill, and one of the tour’s veteran guides, Tom Howley.
Greg Forbes, “Storm-meister Greg,” The Weather Channel’s severe weather expert and a former co-worker, answered a multitude of questions I had about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
A couple of excellent books helped me fill in my (lack of) knowledge of storm chasing and tornadoes. Tornado Alley—Monster Storms of the Great Plains, by Howard B. Bluestein, offers a well written, relatively technical look at supercells and tornadoes. Storm Chasing Handbook (Second Edition), by Tim Vasquez, proved a wonderful, practical guide for storm chasers . . . and novelists.
SATURDAY, APRIL 13
CHUCK RITTENBURG, slump-shouldered, unshaven, stood on the concrete walkway in front of
his dingy row-apartment in Norman, Oklahoma, sipping a Coors Light. It hadn't always been like this, a beer for breakfast. But now . . . what the hell.
Pulses of warm, humid wind from the Gulf of Mexico via the Piney Woods of east Texas whipped over him, bearing away the odors of cleaning solvent and insecticide that leaked from his cheap efficiency like aerosols of despair. Something else rode the wind, too; something at once ominous and exhilarating. He'd sensed it before, many times: the threat of monstrous thunderstorms, the kind that give birth to the Grim Reapers of the Great Plains—tornadoes.