Fuller, author of the bestselling Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, narrates the tragically short life of Colton H. Bryant, a Wyoming roughneck in his mid-20s who in 2006 fell to his death on an oil rig owned by Patterson-UTI Energy. A Wyoming resident herself since 1994, Fuller is expert in evoking the stark landscape and recreating the speech and mentality of her adopted state's native sons. Along the way, she sheds light on the tough, unpredictable lives of Wyoming's oilmen and the toll exacted on their families. Though the book is wonderfully poignant and poetic and reads more like a novel than biography, Fuller acknowledges that she has taken narrative liberties, composed dialogue, disregarded certain aspects of Colton's life and occasionally juggled chronology "to create a smoother story line," leading readers to wonder what is true and what invented for dramatic purposes. As such, it is difficult to assess Fuller's simplistic conclusion that the company's drive to cut costs killed the young man, though she is right to highlight the strikingly high number of fatalities in the industry. As a touching portrait of a life cut short and a perceptive immersion in the environment that nurtures such men, Fuller's volume excels, but in terms of absolute veracity it should be read with caution. (May 6)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A lyrical paean to an unsung . . . well, not exactly hero, but one of life's unsung people. If this book were a country song, it would be by Merle Haggard. Whether British-born Fuller (Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier, 2004, etc.) knows from Haggard is a matter of speculation, but what is clear is that she has an unfailing eye for common people caught up in uncommon events. This story of a young Wyomingite named Colton H. Bryant is also that of the oil and gas boom wrought by deregulation in these rapacious years of Bush, "a tragedy before it even starts because there was never a way for anyone to win against all the odds out here." Alternately bullied and ignored-"Retard" is a slur-cum-nickname that figures often in these pages-Colton did most of the things a young man in the heavily Mormon southwestern corner of the state is supposed to do: ride and rope, fish and hunt, cruise around in pickup trucks. Moreover, like young men in Evanston, Colton "was born with horses and oil in his blood like his father before him and his grandfather before that and maybe his grandfather's father before that." Having endured adolescence thanks to a good friend named Jake and a slightly misquoted creed borrowed from television ("Mind over matter"), Colton followed the second birthright to the oil patch, where he quickly found work as a roughneck, an unforgiving job. "They have to keep drilling hour after hour--storm, heat, sleet, ice, sun--no matter what," writes Fuller. "They'll slap another beating heart on the rig to take your place if you're so much as five minutes late." Diligent and aware of the dangers, but needing to support a wife and baby, he fell into the well, as so manyothers have, just one of 35 Wyomingites to die on the rigs between 2000 and 2006. The petroleum company, in the meanwhile, boasted record profits-while Colton's family "received no compensation for his loss."A latter-day Silkwood, quiet and understated, beautifully written, speaking volumes about the priorities of the age.
" [Fuller's] book-set in her new home, the high plains of Wyoming-hangs so faultlessly on its high-altitude, big-sky, oildrilling bones that it seems not so much to have been written as uncovered by the wind and weather of the American north-west."