The Plastic Paradigm, a New Thought-Provoking Thriller About Greed and the Darker Side of Plastic Pollution
The Plastic Paradigm – If Plastic Waste is the “New Narcotic”, then Jack Jago is the antidote.
After a top government research scientist and his assistant go missing, Jack Jago, an independent Security Specialist goes undercover, posing as a lone fisherman, where he’s at home on the water and busy gathering samples and intelligence.
One evening a ship in port weighs its anchor, revealing the body of a young seaman. His killers had tied him to a link in the anchor chain, and now they’re after his contacts, but why?
Although Jago is happy to work alone his life moves up a gear, to the level where he is most comfortable – one teeming with action and danger, where he has to outsmart and defeat his criminal adversaries.
The question is: Can Jago prevent further loss of life while bringing the upswell of corruption, death, and plastic pollution to an end?
The Plastic Paradigm is the first gripping title in the Jack Jago Thriller Series
What Readers are Saying about this novella:
Editorial Review for the Author Resource Centre Prepared by Grant Leishman
The Plastic Paradigm, by Paul Stretton-Stephens, the first book in the Jack Jago Thriller Series could perhaps best be described as a short primer to this new series of thrillers based around the character of Jack Jago, a security consultant in Great Britain. At just 128 pages on Kindle, it is a novelette, but it does still contain a full story and action adventure featuring our hero, Jack Jago (or just plain Jago, as he prefers). This books serves its purpose well of introducing us to the dangerous and surreptitious world of Jago and his team of specialists…Read Full Editorial Review Here
“Meet the next James Bond. Jago is definitely someone I’d want on my side. I’d spend money and time to watch it in movie form.” (Cat Kelley, Goodreads)
“A very enjoyable book with believable characters and storyline. Loads of action from start to end. Reminded me a bit of Zeb Carter. Hope to hear more from PAUL, I do like to read series books and get to know characters and this one looks very promising xx” (Christine, Amazon Customer)
“This book draws you in from the start and keeps you gripped until the end. Looking forward to see how the characters develop in the following books. Great quick read.” (Miss J, Amazon Customer)
“Great introduction to this series,fast-paced and full of action. I’m just about to start the second book, can’t wait!” (Fiona Enright, Amazon)
” Before reading an ARC of the 2nd Jack Jago book, I picked up this 1st book in the series to read first and I’m so glad I did! This was a quick read, yet the story was very satisfying. I’m not used to reading stories with a British military feel, so it took me a few chapters to feel like I understood the nuances the author intended. I found the main character, Jago, to be an alpha male with intense abilities. The story moves along quickly despite a very detailed description of events, characters and surroundings. The storyline about corruption in shipping regarding plastic pollution and corrupt business practices is unfortunately only too realistic.
I’m looking forward to reading the 2nd book in the Jack Jago Thriller series.” (Sara B, Amazon)
“The Plastic Paradigm by Paul Stretton-Stephens is an action-packed thriller with an environmental theme. Jack Jago is a hero with morals and probably a “license to kill” in order to protect and defend. He comes to the aid of a young woman who is involved with an environmental group that is trying to protect the oceans from pollution from plastics. There are other organizations without a conscience that will kill to protect themselves while making a profit from illegal dumping.
“I found this book to be well written and full of action. It also uses up-to-date technology. I highly recommend this book. The plot and characters are well developed and there is a surprise element involved too.” (Kate Schoenherr, Amazon)
“Jago – they can run but they can’t hide!! This book had me on the edge of my seat from the rip. Full of what I feel are current activities and issues and relevant and intelligent characters. I’m definitely a Jago fan for life.” (Ann Sikes, Amazon)
Here’s a SNEAK PEEK
Chapter 1 – What a Day!
The dockworkers, drivers and passing seamen gawked at the limp figure hanging from the anchor chain of the Duke’s Crown, a dark-hulled bunker ship in the port of Fitton Bridge for a refit.
A crowd of around twenty had gathered port side. In the background, a cacophony of sirens wailed at ever-increasing volume as they drew close. The sun was still relatively high in the sky on this summer’s evening, and it was easy to see that the figure was that of a slim young man with long, dark hair that clung to his face and head. He was secured to the anchor by his wrists and his body swayed with a slight movement created by the murky harbour waters. He was wearing dark-blue overalls tied at the waist with a yellow safety belt.
Three men hung over the side of the ship, looking down at the hanging man. One of the men shouted instructions at the others below, who were desperately trying to reach the chain from a small launch. Their immediate dilemma was that if they managed to cut him free, would he end up in the water?
Suggestions were being called from the port side by the professed experts in the audience. All of which were magnanimously ignored.
A port police launch approached the dangling chain and pulled alongside the Duke’s Crown. A police officer instructed the ship’s captain to lower the anchor slowly. He maintained radio contact as the chain was lowered and gave the order to stop when his colleague could safely grasp the body. The other officer quickly photographed the hanging corpse, and then zoomed in to take a close-up of the ties that bound him, before cutting him free. The body was laid on the deck of the launch and checked for signs of life.
As the boat steered towards the dockside, ambulance crews waited, and beyond them, further up the stone steps, a line of police officers kept the growing crowd at bay. Reporters and photographers had started to appear, and they too were held back.
A paramedic boarded the launch and examined the lifeless body. After the well-rehearsed process, a blanket was placed over the corpse. The paramedic discussed the case with the police officers, after which the scenes of crime officer, CID and the coroner’s office were requested to attend.
The crowd started to disperse – not because they had been told to do so, more due to not being able to see anything gruesome. As the group diminished, Kim, a shipping clerk at the office of Pontus Freight Forwarding Limited, started out on her way home. She had to pass the kerfuffle to leave the port via the north exit, the point nearest her bus stop. She hadn’t heard the commotion, as her office faced seaward and continuous telephone calls had kept her busy. But now she paused, curious, and asked a worker, “Hey, Stan, what’s happening?”
“Nothing for your eyes, young Kim. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“Come on, Stan, I’m a big girl now. What is it?”
As she asked, she caught sight of the police and paramedics transferring a body from a stretcher into a matt black body bag. Kim just managed to glimpse the familiar slim face, partly covered by the long, dark hair. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. And then Kim spotted the fluorescent belt and overalls of her friend Ian. She gasped and clasped her hands to her face in the horrific realisation that Ian lay dead.
Stan continued, “The poor guy was found hanging by his wrists on the Duke’s anchor. She arrived late last night and pulled anchor to move to dry dock about an hour ago. He must have been under all of that time. He must have seriously upset someone.”
Kim left Stan’s side and headed for the bus stop. She thought about how she had tried to call Ian the evening before, at about 9 p.m. And how someone else had answered his mobile phone. She considered telling the police, but it was too public a place for that. She would have no idea who was watching.
As she passed through the port gate, two casually dressed men drew near to her from either side, forcefully guiding her to one side and behind some containers where they were out of sight of everyone else leaving the port. Shocked, she attempted to pull away but they gripped her arms tighter.
“Hello, Kim. What did you want to speak to Ian about last night?” asked the taller of the two men who wore a pockmarked face and spoke in an unfamiliar northern accent.
“Who are you? Leave me alone!” She tried to pull away from their grip again to no avail.
“Feisty, aren’t you? Well, we’ll see about that. I mean, look what happened to young Ian. Now answer the question.”
She looked at him with disdain before answering, “I was going to arrange a blind date for him. But he didn’t answer.”
“What kind of blind date?”
“What kinds are there? He goes out with someone he’s never met before, and I’ve arranged it.”
The taller of the two slapped her across the face. “Don’t get gobby with us, love. Or it’ll be the last thing you do.”
She held her face, and through her sobs asked, “What do you want with me?”
“Nothing yet, but don’t go far. We may need to speak with you again. You understand?”
“Yes, I understand. I’m going nowhere. I’ve nowhere to go.”
“What, a pretty little thing like you? No boyfriend? Oh, I get it – you’re into girls.”
They flung her to the floor and went on their way. Kim composed herself and cleaned herself up as best as she could after being on the oil-stained ground. She patted a tissue against the corner of her mouth, which was bleeding a little, and cradled her sore face with one hand.
As she stepped out into the open space, she saw that she had just missed her bus. She decided to walk.
Kim walked at pace, every now and then looking behind her. She was terrified the men would return. As she walked, she opened her mobile to call her friend Katie.
“Hi, Kim. How are you?”
The walk home passed quickly for Kim as she recounted the events to her Ocean Beautiful activist friend.
Once home, Kim slammed her door shut and placed the security chain across it. She sank onto her sofa and cried hysterically until the phone rang.
“Hi, are you coming over to Giles Hill?” asked Katie.
Kim answered in between her sobs, “Yes, I need to change first.”
“Okay, see you soon then.”
Kim wiped her tears and washed her face with cold water before quickly changing. She then made her way on foot to meet Katie on the other side of the town. While walking she was wary, eyeing up strangers and checking behind. But she was oblivious to the two occupants of a silver Mercedes watching her as she walked along the windy streets. The passenger aimed his telephoto lens at Kim, recording her every move.
The Giles Hill Community Centre was situated a mile away from the port of Fitton Bridge, situated half a mile away from the homes of Katie and Kim. It was a 1970s-style single-storey building featuring red-brick walls and lots of long glass windows with coloured panels below. The community used the facility well and its walls featured an abundance of posters and leaflets for what was on offer.
When Kim approached the community centre, she was alone. She heaved open the large glass door, which was covered by a colourful poster for Ocean Beautiful, an organisation devoted to protecting and enhancing marine life. There was an eclectic gathering of people inside the hall, eagerly awaiting a talk from Doctor Joseph Linden on his research concerning the effect of plastic on marine life. Kim found Katie in the kitchen area and Katie greeted her with a hug.
“Are you alright?” asked Katie.
“I’m okay, a bit shaken up but okay. Shall we take our seats?”
“Yes, I’ve saved us seats near to the kitchen so we can slide away to make the drinks later.”
A few more people arrived, and finally the group of about fifty sat attentively as the doctor commenced.
The presentation lasted an hour, and as the doctor drew to a close, he invited questions from the audience. A fresh-faced man in his mid-twenties asked, “How much plastic is actually out there? I mean, is it quantifiable? What are we up against?”
The doctor smiled. “Well, I think that we have three interconnected questions here. Let me address them one at a time: firstly, let’s get some perspective on the problem and look at how much plastic there is. A recent global study was published in Science Advances, July 2017. This study analysed all of the mass-produced plastic that has ever been manufactured. Now think about that for a moment.”
The doctor paused to allow the audience to absorb the statement before continuing. “The authors Geyer, Jambeck and Law arrived at an estimated figure of eight-point-three million metric tons of plastic that have been produced to date, and they further state that the vast majority has ended up in our environment. They found that about ninety-one per cent of plastic isn’t recycled, and only twelve per cent has been incinerated; seventy-nine per cent of plastic went into landfills or the natural environment, and I count the seas and oceans as a huge part of our natural environment.
“So, I think that this data answers the first two questions, does it not, of how much plastic is actually out there and whether it is quantifiable? The other question, if I recall correctly, was what are we up against?” He paused and paced in front of the audience, searching for his words.
“The largest market for plastics is packaging. It’s been fuelled by a global shift from reusable to single-use containers and the growth in the consumer population. That’s the first thing, but to illustrate this, let’s have some figures that demonstrate that growth. In 2015, the world created four hundred and forty-eight million tons of plastic – more than twice as much as made back in 1998.”
A woman raised a hand.
“Yes, please. What is your question?”
She asked, “If we have such growth and it keeps growing, what will happen, not just to marine life but to all aspects of life?”
“Excellent question. I have no crystal ball – I wish that I did. But I do have data projections that show that if current production and waste management trends were to continue, then roughly twelve thousand metric tons of plastic waste would be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.”
The audience was silent, taking in the scale of what the doctor had just stated.
A middle-aged woman asked, “Are any of the plastics used biodegradable?”
“It seems not … no, not really. You see, without getting too technical, it’s mostly what we call monomers, such as ethylene and propylene, that are used to make plastics, and these are derived from fossil hydrocarbons. This results in none of the commonly used plastics being biodegradable.”
“But why isn’t plastic being recycled?”
“Well, there are many reasons, but mainly it isn’t seen as a profitable option, and the population and governments haven’t bought into the magnitude of the problem, and therefore there are no incentives. There is no education, and the problem worsens day by day. On top of that, some countries will buy plastics for recycling, but some unscrupulous, greedy profiteers take the money to transport it and then dump their loads at sea, polluting marine life and affecting its habitat. Marine life often cannot determine the difference between food and plastic. For example, fish eat the polymer beads. We catch them for the table and our food chain is affected. It’s as simple as that in many cases.”
Katie asked, “What can we do to prevent further devastation to marine life?”
“Support our organisation. We are intent on bringing about change through education, lobbying of politicians and campaigning. We’re also considering the tracking of plastics, many of which leave a signature, an origin if you will.”
Kim thought for a moment and then asked, “And what will happen to those who dump plastics into our oceans?”
“Currently, not a great deal happens. There just aren’t the deterrents that we would like. We plan to lobby for tougher measures – higher company fines, et cetera. As an example, I ought to mention a case whereby a company hid illegal waste in a shipment that was subsequently inspected. The company appeared at a magistrates’ court facing charges. They were found guilty, but were fined a mere twenty-three thousand pounds, which is not much more than it would have cost them to dispose of the waste legally. We intend to change that.”
The doctor looked at his watch and announced, “I’m very sorry, ladies and gentleman, but we’ll have to close now; we’re over time already. Thank you for coming this evening. I appreciate your support.”
The audience clapped and then dispersed for refreshments, which Katie and Kim helped to serve with other volunteers. As they filled the tea urn, they chatted discretely about the day’s events in more depth. Katie was horrified.
“Kim, why don’t you stay at my place tonight?”
“No, I’ll be okay. It was just a bit of a shock, that’s all. I didn’t know Ian too well; we just had the odd conversation, and he sent the odd photo on social media. I’ll be alright, honestly.”
END of CHAPTER 1