Book Review - The Good Hand by Michael Patrick F. Smith

When folksinger and playwright, Michael Patrick Smith, decided to leave a comfortable life in New York City to seek work in the Bakken oilfield of North Dakota his motivations were clear. He wanted to make a lot of money and make it fast. Companies were “desperate for bodies to work the rigs” offering generous terms to “any dude who could make the trek to town and swing a hammer when he got there”. In this remarkable debut, using as source material the emails written to his friends during his time on the fields, it becomes clear that his underlying motivations were much more complex.

Work on the Bakken is back-breaking and dangerous. Conditions, especially in the cold, dark winter months, are brutal. The friendships and alliances Smith makes with his peripatetic co-workers are forged in this environment, where mistakes can have fatal consequences. Although viewed as something as an oddity, an Obama-supporting liberal in King Arthur’s Court, he earns respect through sheer graft and becomes considered ‘a good hand’. Smith almost wears the exhaustion that accompanies the end of each shift signals as a badge of pride.

Back in the Boomtown, he shares bedroom floors with other transient workers, where the social infrastructure has been stretched way beyond its limits. The influx of men seeking work, and the desperation of employers willing to turn a blind-eye to past misdeeds, led to a sharp rise in crime. Smith, whose own upbringing was frequently violent, is unflinching in his descriptions of how the ‘boom’ is anything but for many locals.

Like the California gold-rush of the 19th century, the shale gas revolution has changed America. The importance and benefits of energy self-sufficiency is not some abstract concept, but something that will deliver benefits for decades to come. While chronicling his own time living this version of the American Dream, Smith also shines an unsparing light on the impact it has on the people tasked with building it.

Capital at risk

The information provided does not constitute investment advice and is not an offer to invest in any SVM funds or any of the securities mentioned.  If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment please consult an authorised financial adviser.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. All financial instruments involve a degree of risk. The value of your investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on this website belong to the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of other SVM Asset Management Ltd employees. Some of the information and data contained on this website has been obtained from external sources that we believe to be reliable but in no way are warranted by us as to their accuracy or completeness.  SVM does not accept any liability arising from any inaccuracy or omission in or the use of or reliance on the information on this website.

Users accessing this website from outside the United Kingdom do so at their own risk and should be aware that SVM may not have the appropriate regulatory permissions to offer its products to you.  SVM funds are not available to residents of the United States of America, residents within an area subject to its jurisdictions or United States Persons.

SVM Asset Management Ltd is not authorised to give investment advice.   Investment in the ICVC funds can only be made on the basis of the current Prospectus, Supplementary Information Document and relevant Key Investor Information Document.  These are available on our website

SVM Asset Management Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  Registered address: 7 Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3AH.  SVM Asset Management Ltd is the Authorised Corporate Director of SVM Funds ICVC.