Drawing on his own experience as an oil-company lease negotiator, Tarlton (A Window Facing West, 1999) spins a smooth and quirky comic Southern story of a working woman fighting off demons past and present to find her own sweet peace of mind.
If Diane Morris didn’t have gumption, she’d be in the wrong job. Driving around Louisiana as a “landman,” the point person in persuading people to let Anoco Oil drill on their property, she’s seen it all—but the trio of tough nuts she encounters in rural Pointe Claire Parish is the real test of her mettle. All three are landowners surrounding Mud Lake, into which the oil company wants to drill, but there the similarity stops: Henry Dunn is a black farmer raising three sons on land his daddy bought, the first black man to do so in those parts; Amanda Snow is a pistol-packing widow for whom self-sufficiency is a badge of honor; and the coarse A.E. Baughman, richest man in the parish, wants only to cheat his neighbors of every penny in the deal. As Diane contends with them, on the home front more trouble is brewing, as her smooth-talking ex-con ex-husband Ray is back in touch after dropping out of her life completely. Then there’s Pop, her widowed father, who lives with her and her son Tim and who’s trying to keep out of the way of a determined widow next door. When someone starts threatening Baughman, bringing the local sheriff on the scene, he proves to be just the kind of gentle hunk Diane had given up hope of finding. The race is on: close the deal without letting Baughman have his way, put Ray back on whatever slime trail he slid in on, and let the sheriff know that he can be a whole lot more than just a peacemaker. All this in the space of a week.
A fine, funny potboiler, with only an unlikely twist at the end to give the reader pause.