Roughnecks, a novel by James J. Patterson
Throwing Chain: The Williston Basin, North Dakota & Montana
To his fellow crewmembers on Bomac Drilling Company, rig number 34, twenty-seven-year-old newcomer Zachary Harper is a mystery. To Marty, the derrick hand, he’s a welcome working body. To Freddy, his chainhand, sees him as another newcomer trying to “break out” in the oil patch. To Jesse Lancaster, his driller, he’s a “worm” — a risk, taken of necessity, who just might make it as a roughneck.
We join Zachary Harper the day after he has left the East Coast, and its security, suits, and ties behind, and the day before he discovers the stark reality that a clean slate is just the cold empty space where the self struggles with the soul.
A tale of trial, risk, sacrifice, and self-discovery, Roughnecks takes its place in the tradition of American literary quest fiction. Is Zachary Harper an Ishmael or a Sal Paradise? A Jay Gatsby or a Huck Finn? Whoever he might be, he seeks self-knowledge, awareness, and authenticity. He will find it on an oil rig, in the Williston basin. Throwing chain.
By turns magical and moving, immense and tragic, Roughnecks maps a rugged geography of the human condition, as seen through the eyes of the hard-bitten Zak Harper. With both wit and style, Patterson paints an unforgettable picture of characters wrestling with their own gruff but complicated souls who are nonetheless deeply attuned to an environment as harsh as their dangerous job. It’s not hard to see Cormac McCarthy in its clean and blunt dialogue or James Dickey in the depth of its prose, yet there is something here that goes beyond what even McCarthy or Dickey challenged readers to do – that is to care deeply about a character not because they like or even hate him, but because they understand him and are therefore compelled to follow him. — James Mathews, author of Last Known Position