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The 7.9 Scenario

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The 7.9 Scenario is a series of four books: three novels and a non-fiction book, by author Sam Penny that tell what happens when a modern-day magnitude 7.9 earthquake strikes on the New Madrid Fault. Such an earthquake will shake 22 states and will be felt by over 91,000,000 people, 32,000,000 of them in the 300,000-square-mile zone where damage will occur.

The novels are fast paced stories of people who are there when the catastrophe happens, giving readers the opportunity to vicariously live through the fierce shaking and face the destruction of the awesome event. The characters may be fiction, but the physical events will be all too real.

The non-fiction book of the series details the construction of the scientific analysis of the scenario and the writing of the series.

Memphis 79Memphis 7.9, Book 1 of the series, relates attempts to predict an earthquake on the New Madrid Fault and the state of preparedness around Memphis. The book tells of the 23.5 seconds of fracturing it takes to ravage the eastern half of the country with over 13 minutes of shaking. and of the immediate effects the earthquake has in Memphis. Our country is only beginning to realize the magnitude of the devastation and organize to do something about it.

Broken RiverThe tale of what happens in a giant earthquake to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers is found in Book 2, Broken River. Levees and dams in the lower Ohio and Mississippi Valleys have ruptured and water floods the surrounding land. The heroic captains who ply these waters must save their boats and refugees as they fight nature and anarchy on their way downriver to what they hope is safety in Memphis.

The Phoenix of MemphisMemphis is a lost city, cut off from the outside world. Help can only trickle in because there are so many other places throughout the country that require aid. Amidst all this devastation and attempts to recover, people still covet the ability to predict earthquakes which the main character, Chris, holds in his head. The story of his struggles is set against the backdrop of the efforts of those in Memphis to recover and survive in Book 3, The Phoenix of Memphis. This book is still in development.

The 7.9 Scenario, Analysis and WritingBook 4, The 7.9 Scenario, Analysis and Writing, tells why and how Penny developed The 7.9 Scenario, and why he chose to tell the world of his findings in the form of fiction. The book provides the basics for understanding why and how earthquakes happen and how the seismic waves do damage across the land. The calculations of the models used by Penny to estimate shaking intensity and damage across the eastern half of the country are provided. This book is being serialized on this website.


There are a number of other books that were used to build the 7.9 Scenario and to research the scenario and write the novels. This seems to be an appropriate place to provide some information about these books. If they are available, links to where they may be purchased are provided.

Earthquakes, Bruce A. Bolt, University of California, Berkeley, W H Freeman and Company, 1978-1993, 331 pages -- This was my first bible on earthquakes. It is chock full of information about geology and seismology. By now it may not be the most up-to-date but it is a great read for understanding many of the basic elements of earthquakes.

Damages & Losses From Future New Madrid Earthquakes, David Stewart, Ph.D., Center for Earthquake Studies, Southeast Missouri State University, Cap;e Girardeau, Missouri 65102, 1991-1996, 68 pages w/maps (out of print) -- This report served as a primary resource during my development of The 7.9 Scenario. It was funded by the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and FEMA in 1991. I used a copy of the 1996 fifth printing. As of this writing I could find no available copies

Rising Tide, The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, John M. Barry, Simon & Shuster, 1997, 524 pages -- This book provides a wealth of information on the early history of the Mississippi River and the development of the levee systems along the river banks. It also provides some great insight into what happens in a region when a really great disaster takes place.

The Frontiersmen, Allan W. Eckert, Little Brown, 1967, 751 pages -- This is the fictionalized story of the life of Simon Kenton, a frontiersman who lived from 1775 to 1836. It includes the story of Tecumseh's prediction of a great falling of the wigwams that would be a signal in 1811 for the Native Americans of the Ohio Valley to rise against the white invaders. It also gives some very interesting tales about the effects along the Mississippi and Ohio when that prediction became fact and the earthquakes hit. Kenton lost part of his fortune in that event.

The Next New Madrid Earthquake, A Survival Guide for the Midwest, William Atkinson, Southern Illinois University Press, 1989, 210 pages -- This is an excellent book that details the potential destruction of the Mississippi Valley in the event of a great earthquake on the New Madrid. I found its many suggestions of what life would be like afterward most helpful.


I also have enjoyed reading other's earthquake stories. Here are some of the best.

8.4, Peter Hernon, Putman Publishers Group, 1999, 393 pages -- Hernon tells a tale of the New Madrid Fault gone wild and growing. His descriptions of some of the effects are good, but his proposed solution goes a bit beyond the bounds of science. It appears that NBC picked up on the idea and used it as the foundation for its TV-movie "10.5" but I am not sure. In any case, this is a fun and good read.

The Rift, Walter J. Williams, Eos, 2000, 944 pages -- Williams uses a huge book to tell a story of a huge earthquake, and 8.9 magnitude event on the New Madrid Fault. He weaves a very intricate tale of the destruction that follows. I found the book a very hard read and have yet to complete it, but it has received some fair reviews.

1906: A Novel, James Dalessandro, Chronicle Books, 2004, 364 pages -- Dalessandro tells a mixture of fact and fiction about the corruption of San Francisco before, during, and after the 1906 earthquake. His description of the earthquake is brief and confused, and you need to be a native to keep up with his description of the damage and the fire that follows. It is a fair read. It is being made into a movie.

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