I recently completed two novels with very similar themes, “Black Hills” by Franklin Schneider and Jennifer Schneider, a brother-sister writing duo, and “Coyote” by Kelly Oliver. Both focus on the fate of exploited native women and Indian reservation communities in boomtowns where oil workers are forcing oil out of the ground through fracking. Apparently, the authors of both books used similar source material and reached many of the same disturbing conclusions.
Both books were pretty rough to read because they pull no punches about what happens to sex slave workers in these oil boomtowns, the mountains of synthetic drugs (“dust”) that is consumed, and the fraud and murder that occurs in order to keep the people involved in business.
The heroine in Oliver’s “Coyote” is a philosophy graduate student from Montana who returns home for the summer to work at Glacier Park, Jessica James. Her roommate is a member of the Blackfeet tribe who is distraught that her younger sisters seem to have been kidnapped by sex slavers. Jessica takes a Glacier Park bus to help her roommate, Kimi Redfox, to find the missing sisters, and to investigate the death of her cousin, Mike, in a lumber mill accident. They are assisted by a Russian emigre named Lolita, who seems to know her way around the big-shots in the community who own the fracking and lumber mill businesses. “Coyote” is a straight-forward detective and mystery story with a likeable amature sleuth.
The heroine of the Schneiders’ “Black Hills” is Alice Riley, a Brooklyn Private Investigator hired by the wife of an employee of the fracking company in Whitehurst, South Dakota, to investigate why he has been taken into custody for assaulting a prostitute. Alice befriends the Native American prostitute girlfriend of the man who has been jailed and they go after the truth together. Neither Alice nor her friend, Kim, are innocents in this story. They both partake in plenty of drugs and sex in their effort to gain information and take down the CEO of the fracking company. The fracking company, they learn, is also behind a huge drug operation, the sex trafficking in the area, and nearly everthing else that is killing Native American people and their heritage.
“Black Hills” is a strong literary achievement by Franklin Schneider, who is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but many will also find the unrelenting drugs and sex and the very dark take on the fracking business to be disturbing.
I’m glad I read both “Coyote” and “Black Hills,” despite their strong thematic and character similarities. They both leave a very concerning message about fracking and the companies and communities swallowed up by that business.
Reviewed from supplied copies.