DIRT RICH by Clark Howard


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A tepid Texas dynasty yarn--from rags to riches in the rough and tumble oilfields of the 1920's--from an author best known for his real-life crime sagas (Zebra, Brothers in Blood, Six Against the Rock). Sam Sheridan is an unambitious young man who returns from the First World War, unwittingly marries a girl who has slept with most of the men in town, and seems about to settle down to a life of henpeckery and clerking when he learns that a mysterious Texas rancher named Able Patman has died and left him 100 acres of scrub land near the grubby town of Dane, Texas. With little to keep them in Kansas City, he and his wife, Georgia, pack up and head for Dane; once there, they find themselves in a fiefdom controlled by Patman's daughter, Ardelle, and her husband, Pete Spence, a powerful and brutal rancher. Refusing all offers to sell their land, Georgia and Sam gather a bunch of misfits and outcasts to them and, sure enough, strike oil--the first and richest strike in what is to become the fabled East Texas Oilfield. Sam's power and influence soon eclipses that of Spence (who commits suicide after an attempt to burn the Sheridans out kills his own children), and Sam finally learns that he is the illegitimate grandson of old Able, who'd left the land to him as a test of his courage and manhood. So far, entertaining if run-of-the-mill, but the rest of the novel, which covers the 30's, 40's, and early 50's, is simply a aeries of strung-together incidents without a compelling underpinning of plot or motive. Sam consolidates his gains, Georgia leaves him for a half-breed oil foreman, their son Tyler is killed in the war, and Georgia finally returns when her lover dies--the story ends as she and Sam reconcile and are apparently going to have a comfortable, if unexciting, old age together. Overall, too little verve, surprise, and romance here; Sam has the patience of Job in the face of adversity--and has it over and over again--but bland stoicism is not the stuff of which heroes in this genre are made.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's