Book Review: The Golden Lane by Sam L Pfiester

The Golden Lane Faja de Oro by Sam L Pfiester is quite simply historical fiction at its best. It’s interesting, informative and imaginative, but above all a thoroughly absorbing read as it brings history to life. It is the story of the 1910 Tampico oil boom, seen from every side. We have our earnest self-made geologist, Everette DeGolyer (De), who believes that oil will benefit everyone. There are the rich landowners like Lord Cowdray who will benefit financially to a huge extent from the discovery of oil, optimists like Jim the cowboy-turned-translator who simply hope to make a few bucks out of the boom, and there are also the natives of the area, who wonder if they will gain anything or will they just be exploited again. The oil discovery takes place against the background of De’s family life with the stoic Nell and on a larger, more drastic scale, the Mexican Revolution.

Pfiester clearly knows his stuff. He has used real people as his characters and his obvious interest in geology and the oil industry shines through every page. There are photos and diagrams that fit neatly into the story, and you pick up so many fascinating facts along the way, for example, about vanilla farming as well as plenty of snippets about oil production. There is an epilogue with biographies, a glossary and also appendices that include a copy of De’s original report on the oilfields of 1912 and a summary of how oil is formed; these are wonderful touches. This book is top quality, compelling reading for its excellently created characters, the author’s easy style and the fact that it’s a gripping story.