Great American Outpost

Great American Outpost

Dreamers, Mavericks, and the Making of an Oil Frontier

The story of a twenty-first century American frontier–where the free market reigns supreme as profiteers rush to develop a massive new oilfield.

The word was that you could earn $17,000 a month in the Bakken Oilfield of North Dakota. So they flooded in: the profiteers, deadbeats, ex-cons, dreamers, and doers. And so too did Maya Rao, a journalist who embedded herself in the surreal new American frontier.

With an eye for the dark, humorous, and absurd, Rao set out in steel-toed boots to chronicle the largest oil boom since the 1968 discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Businessmen turned up to restart their careers after bankruptcy or fraud allegations from the financial crisis. An ex-con found his niche as a YouTube celebrity exposing the underside of oilfield life. A high-rolling Englishman blew investors’ money on $400 shots of cognac as authorities started to catch on that his housing developments were part of a worldwide Ponzi scheme.

Part Barbara Ehrenreich, part Upton Sinclair, this is an on-the-ground narrative of capitalism and industrialization as a rural, insular community transformed into a colony of outsiders hustling for profit-a sobering exploration of twenty-first century America that reads like a frontier novel.

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Genre: Nonfiction / History / United States / State & Local / Midwest (ia, Il, In, Ks, Mi, Mn, Mo, Nd, Ne, Oh, Sd, Wi)

On Sale: April 24th 2018

Price: $17.99

Page Count: 336

ISBN-13: 9781610396479

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Praise

"An important addition to the literature of the U.S. shale revolution-too often underestimated and misunderstood-Great American Outpost reminds us that the revolution is not just a story of frack fluid and oil production but a story of the human experience. Through Didionesque scenes of the North Dakota boom, Maya Rao evokes America in extremis with glimpses of lives and decisions that are sometimes frightening, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes just nuts." --Gary Sernovitz, author of The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight over Fracking, and the Future of Energy

"From the upper reaches of North Dakota, Maya Rao extracts a potent metaphor for modern American capitalism. Her bracing dispatch from the Bakken reveals the toll of fracking on everything it touches - from the soil of the Great Plains, to the precarious lives of roughnecks, to the remote communities that became boomtowns full of hustlers, dreamers and opportunists. Keenly observed and vividly told, Great American Outpost also has an undercurrent of anxiety that seeps from abandoned oilfields into the larger landscape of our culture, in the form of a question few dare to ask: What remains when the profiteers move on?" --Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century America


"I'm grateful for this stunning work of immersive reportage. Maya Rao tells us a tale from ground zero for modern American capitalism: the North Dakota oil rush, from boom to bust. It's a remarkable book for right now, mixing compelling portraits with smart, big picture analysis. Rao shows us stories that visiting reporters would likely miss, and the result is a rich, nuanced book that's a crucial guide to understanding twenty-first century America." --Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

"With oil at $100 a barrel, greed in North Dakota was manifest and the characters were right out of the Gold Rush, from some of the craziest get rich crooks to the recently paroled who could make $90,000 a year hurling big trucks down two-lane roads. Maya Rao's description of one of America's biggest rushes of sheer greed ranks right up there with the great books of the California Gold Rush of 1849 ...This is one of the best books in America about working men and women -- and life in the oilfields when the lid blows off." --Humpy Wheeler, retired NASCAR promoter and former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway

"Maya Rao didn't just write about the boomtown life, she lived it capturing the hope and despair of a nation of citizens looking for a break. A gimlet-eyed look at the oil, dust, and, most importantly, the people living on our country's last frontier. This is essential reading for anyone interested in how the American Dream or the American Nightmare can be made and lost in the blink of a two-week pay period." --Stephen Rodrick, contributing editor to Rolling Stone