From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Capitalism at its most colorful oozes across the pages of this engrossing study of independent oil men. Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (coauthor, Barbarians at the Gate) profiles the Big Four oil dynasties of H.L. Hunt, Roy Cullen, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, along with their cronies, rivals, families and, in Hunt's case, bigamous second and third families. The saga begins heroically in the early 20th-century oil boom, with wildcatters roaming the Texas countryside drilling one dry hole after another, scrounging money and fending off creditors until gushers of black gold redeem them. Their second acts as garish nouveaux riches with strident right-wing politics are entertaining, if less dramatic. Decline sets in as rising production costs and cheaper Middle Eastern oil erode profits, and a feckless, feuding second generation squanders family fortunes on debauchery and reckless investment—H.L.'s sons' efforts in 1970 to corner the silver market bankrupted them and almost took down Wall Street. This is a portrait of capitalism as white-knuckle risk taking, yielding fruitful discoveries for the fathers, but only sterile speculation for the sons—a story that resonates with today's economic upheaval. (Jan. 27)
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When a huge oil reserve was discovered at Spindletop, in southeast Texas, in 1901, the state was an inward-looking �hell with cows� built around lumber, cotton, and cattle. In this riveting history, Burrough charts the decades-long rush that made Texas oil into a political and economic powerhouse through the lives of the four great barons: Hugh Roy Cullen, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, and H. L. Hunt. Each began his foray into oil as a wildcatter, striking it rich through a combination of intuition and bravado. The fortunes of the Big Four swelled during the Second World War, when the United States was the world�s leading producer of crude, but by the nineteen-eighties Middle Eastern oil was ascendant, and the barons� legacies had �dissolved into a sordid litany of debauchery, family feuds, scandals, and murder.� Burrough brings each of his outsized subjects brilliantly to life, pitching their individual epics against a grand narrative of rise and decline.
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