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The New Wild West

Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown

Blaire Briody

St. Martin's Press

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ISBN10: 1250064929
ISBN13: 9781250064929


352 Pages



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Williston, North Dakota was a sleepy farm town for generations—until the frackers arrived. The oil companies moved into Williston, overtaking the town and setting off a boom that America hadn’t seen since the Gold Rush. Workers from all over the country descended, chasing jobs that promised them six-figure salaries and demanded no prior experience.

But for every person chasing the American dream, there is a darker side—reports of violence and sexual assault skyrocketed, schools overflowed, and housing prices soared. Real estate is such a hot commodity that tent cities popped up, and many workers’ only option was to live out of their cars. Farmers whose families had tended the land for generations watched, powerless, as their fields were bulldozed to make way for one oil rig after another.

Written in the vein Ted Conover and Jon Krakauer, using a mix of first-person adventure and cultural analysis,The New Wild West is the definitive account of what’s happening on the ground and what really happens to a community when the energy industry is allowed to set up in a town with little regulation or oversight—and at what cost.


Praise for The New Wild West

"A fascinating look at what can happen when one area becomes a hot spot of activity with no regulation or oversight."New York Post

"Blaire Briody was on the ground during the epic fracking boom in Williston, North Dakota and The New Wild West provides a fascinating portrait of the times, the people, the community, and the 21st century quest for the American dream."—C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"The same furious forces that shattered the Bakken Shale and unleashed one of the most explosive oil booms in history also fractured the lives of many who were drawn to it. Insightful, deeply reported, and at times heartbreakingly personal, Blaire Briody’s The New Wild West brings us face to face with the walking wounded of America’s domestic energy boom—the preacher fallen from grace, the young couple struggling to hold their family together, the roughnecks and drivers who all came looking for that most elusive of natural resources, a second chance."—Seamus McGraw, author of The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone

"The North Dakota oil rush brought a wave of prosperity and a load of human trouble to a previously-gentle frozen backwater of the United States. Blaire Briody tells the story with fearlessness and compassion and gets inside the lives of truck drivers, pastors, roughnecks and modern-day American migrants trying to cope with a bonanza and its aftermath. This is first-rate reporting, with a novelist's sensibility."—Tom Zoellner, author of Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World, from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief

"Nothing decodes a place in time like a great reporter on the ground. With elegance, incisiveness and heart, Blaire Briody weaves snapshot stories of those recession refugees attracted to and affected by the North Dakota oil boom. With Briody as your guide, you'll see, feel, and understand the motives, choices, and challenges that defined the New Wild West."—Adam Skolnick, author of One Breath: Freediving, Death and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits

"Briody shows a remarkable talent for explaining the societal shifts wrought by the new American oil boom through individual stories. Where others might cite statistics and be done with it, she applies a human touch, and the impact of her work is greater for it."—Sarah Stodola, author of Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors

"Briody, winner of the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice reporting, tells the fascinating stories of people in pursuit of their piece of the oil boom. There’s triumph and heartbreak in this blend of reportage, profiles, and personal essay."Booklist (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


On a sunny Monday afternoon in early September 2013, I sat in the passenger seat of Donny Nelson’s dark blue Ford pickup truck, heading along a bumpy dirt road. Nelson drove and his small, shaggy dog, Lucky, perched...

About the author

Blaire Briody

BLAIRE BRIODY is a journalist who has written for The New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Fast Company, and Glamour, among others. She has worked as a senior editor at The Fiscal Times and she received the Richard J. Margolis Award in 2014 for social justice reporting.The New Wild West is her first book and it was the 2016 finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. She teaches journalism at Santa Rosa Junior College, and she's been a writer-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Mesa Refuge, and Blue Mountain Center. She grew up in the small town of Mount Shasta, California, graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in international relations, and now resides in Sonoma County.

Will Christiansen

Blaire Briody

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