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Business & Economy

Sunderland University lecturer praised for debut novel

A University of Sunderland lecturer is launching his debut novel this week based in the aftermath of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster.

Almost 33 years ago – On April 25-26 1986 – the No4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, exploded.

The event occurred during a late-night safety test and resulted in an international disaster unlike anything seen before.

For his debut novel, The Chernobyl Privileges, Dr Alex Lockwood, a senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, evokes the spectre of the tragedy, combined with the continuing controversy of Britain’s nuclear deterrent programme.

The Chernobyl Privileges is a psychological drama that depicts the traumatic experience of surviving disaster, exploring the consequences of decisions people are forced to make, and how those decisions shape their lives.

Dr Lockwood said: “In 2016 it was coming up to the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl and I wanted to find out a bit more about it all.

“My protagonist is a Chernobyl survivor who works at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, where Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons are kept.

“I think the book has turned out to have quite a strong anti-nuclear stance, which I suppose is very much my view. In fact the last page of the book is a House of Commons Early Day Motion, written by Jeremy Corbyn, in regards to Trident.”

Already struggling to keep his marriage together, the book’s main character, Anthony Fahey, finds himself at the centre of an emergency when an accident on a Trident submarine throws the base into crisis.

But as the situation worsens, Anthony’s history threatens this opportunity to finally prove himself in the world of nuclear power. Old memories and buried secrets from his childhood reach into the present, as Anthony begins to understand that it isn’t only radiation that has a half-life.

Dr Lockwood added: “As well as the bigger picture, this is very much a book about family relationships and surviving trauma.”

The book has already received critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for New Writing, 2016; as well as chosen in the Valley Press First Chapter Competition, 2016.