Pottinger never disappoints. His books are infused with a realism
that makes them larger than fiction, a rare quality that belies the
fact that THE BOSS, his latest novel, is only his fourth. In many
ways it is also his best.
THE BOSS is set within the oil industry, arguably the most
important element of our modern world. Spin Patterson runs Gulf-Tex
Oil, a company that he inherited from his father-in-law and has
transformed into a major oil industry player with a combination of
brains, cunning and unscrupulousness. Max McLennon, a
second-generation employee at Gulf-Tex, is Patterson's
protégé and almost his greatest admirer. McLennon is
staking everything and everyone on the development of Black Eyes, a
tool that has the potential to transform the world by giving oil
companies the ability to detect oil far below the earth's surface
rather than engaging in the costly and often futile practice of
drilling where they think oil may be had.
Patterson is a high roller with nerves of steel and a ruthless
drive who will roll over anything or anyone that gets in his way.
McLennon is the opposite of Patterson, an upright individual who
can sympathize with the working man but who has the tendency to
freeze under pressure. The presence of Tacoma Reed, the intelligent
and exotic legal for Gulf-Tex, complicates matters for both men, as
Patterson attempts to beat the odds and revitalize Gulf-Tex from a
major setback --- even as his actions may result in the sacrifice
of everything and everyone he holds dear.
Meanwhile, McLennon is given the opportunity to make things right
for the people Patterson has damaged. It soon becomes clear though
that he is playing a high-stakes game for which he is outclassed.
Help arrives at the last moment from two unexpected sources, but it
may be too late --- even as THE BOSS races toward an exciting and
Pottinger could have phoned in a tale of greed and corruption that
would have played well with the masses and conformed to the
popular, if simplistic, worldview of the oil industry. Instead, he
has chosen at least in part to put a human face on a difficult
enterprise. Yes, there are billions of dollars to be made in the
oil industry, but there are also billions upon billions of dollars
to be lost. The process of finding oil is extremely difficult;
extracting it is all the more so. It is a dangerous and dirty
business, the essence of which Pottinger captures well on all
levels, explaining complicated concepts in an understandable manner
without dumbing them down. I submit that one will not be able to
read THE BOSS without thinking of the book the next time one fills
up the tank.
Pottinger also does a magnificent job with characterization here.
Patterson and McLennon are excellent protagonists. Though flawed in
different ways, they are believable, each having detracting and
sympathetic traits that ultimately result in a highly ironic ending
THE BOSS is as readable a work as any that you'll encounter this
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011