AN AMERICAN HERO: The Red Adair Story by Philip Singerman

AN AMERICAN HERO: The Red Adair Story

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Paul Neal ""Red"" Adair, the famed Texas oil-well fire fighter, is a man whose deeds of derring-do need little embroidery. Yet Singerman goes to great lengths to romanticize and paint Adair larger than life, nearly ruining an otherwise engrossing biography. In July 1988, at age 73, Adair flew to the North Atlantic to put out a raging gas and oil fire at Occident Petroleum's Piper Alpha production platform. When the well blew, it claimed the lives of 167 workers and crumpled the 34,000-ton construct of steel beams and braces. At its peak, the rig could pump 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day. As the author notes, pumping 40,000 gallons of water per minute into a burning oil rig is ""like spitting on a burning barn."" Extinguishing such a blaze sometimes takes months, costs millions, and involves newly drilled wells to divert gas, tons of drilling mud, pumps, tankers, reservoirs, heavy equipment, know-how, and skill. Part engineer, part fireman, part daredevil, Adair often used explosives to blow back a fire and plug a well long enough to cap it and set a new wellhead. He was known to drive a bulldozer--with water hoses trained on and around him--laden with hundreds of pounds of nitroglycerin within a few feet of a blazing well to set a charge. For half a century he fought fire of all kinds in all parts of the world: from Algeria to Canada, from Texas to the North Sea. A stirring life; but in telling it, Singerman resorts to cornball language, striving to maintain an unnecessary good-ole-boy flavor: ""The only place he felt comfortable was. . .on a job in the midst of turmoil and chaos. . .when his ass was on the line""; ""Red was as calm as the bottom of an ice-covered pond."" A little of such style goes a long way.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1990
Publisher: Little, Brown