Time of Plenty
a novel by Ed O'Brien
H. B. Ross, a veteran oil hand by his late teens who enjoys browsing the encyclopedia in his spare time, is convinced that the major problem with oil is that there is just too much of the stuff. Everywhere he turns in Oklahoma, almost behind every blackjack, he's beginning to believe, rich pools lurk. With the price of oil in the pits – ten barrels (420 gallons) going for a dollar – H. B. wonders how crude can ever amount to much, with clods yanking it from the ground faster than it can be used.
He battles many who want to run the choke wide open, among them one Cecil Jones, a rich royalty owner. Cecil, when not pushing unlimited production, strives for mastery of his wife Mary Belle, a woman full of unsettling ideas like the one proposed that morning: a bunch of women going off alone, to watch a dancing marathon in Tulsa, without a single man to guide their thinking for an entire afternoon. A dutiful wife, Mary Belle manages to give Cecil his way, in every little thing, while steering him, with an unseen touch, to where she prefers he go.
It is a time of plenty, the 1920s and early 1930s, when the curtain rises on the great American oil glut. And it is a time of searching for H. B. not only for treasures below ground, but, more importantly, for the grand prize at the end of the rainbow: to find his true love as he maneuvers to outwit Cecil and Mary Belle and discover himself.
"The seeds for today's high price of oil were planted almost a century ago, during boom days of the 20th century. Time of Plenty captures that period in Oklahoma when times were simpler, crude gushed across the tops of derricks, and conservation was a vague, and suspect, theory. Ed O'Brien's relaxed, almost whimsical, novel recalls the plethora of crude that influenced energy use for decades, and even to this very day. It's a tale about oil, but it's also the story of human strengths, weaknesses, and love. It's a captivating read."
– Ken Martin
Creative Director, creativecreative.net
About the Author
Ed O'Brien was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1925. When grade school ended, his family moved to Oklahoma City, a town renowned at the time for the large number of producing oil wells inside the city limits, resulting in lively arguments among concerned citizens over who was entitled to royalty money: all the people on the block or the guy who had the derrick in his back yard.
During World War II he flew fifty missions as an aerial gunner on a B-24 crew based at Grottaglie, Italy, located near the port city of Taranto. After graduation from the University of Oklahoma, he reported and edited for state newspapers. Then he worked in the public affairs field for the United States Air Force, in a civilian capacity. He returned to the university, after retirement, to study writing under J. Madison Davis and Deborah Chester.
He has written three novels, but Time of Plenty is the first to be published. He works, at his home in Oklahoma City, on another novel concerning the world's fuel of choice for the better part of a century.
"Time of Plenty is a colorful story of the oil patch early in the 20th century. Ed O'Brien has constructed a rich account of life in the hardscrabble towns of central Oklahoma, as seen through the adventures and misadventures of young oil man H. B. Ross. It's a delightful read."
– Owen Canfield
Editorial Writer, The Oklahoman
"In Time of Plenty Ed O'Brien captures a major slice of life during the Oklahoma oil glut of the 1920s and 1930s. His easy writing style in creating characters and situations makes us feel we know these people; we become deeply involved in their experiences."
– Mort Klayman
Former English Dept. chair,
Amherst Central High School