||January 1, 2007
Legend says that Devil’s Pocket, eerie and foreboding, is a place where lost souls wander throughout eternity and the devil lives here still. The air is filled with the pungent odor of sulfur, gnarled oaks struggle to survive, and something like mist spews from the ground. Morgan Colebridge stoops, picks up a handful of soil, and knows this site is the answer to his prayers. Shaking the dirt from his fingers, he smells the greasy residue. There’s black gold here—no doubt! And he’s going to own it—all he has to do is make a pact with Price Thornton, whom many demonize as Lucifer’s own, and then marry Rachael Priest, the old man’s granddaughter.
Barnes & Noble.com
Set in the rich, oil-producing region of Southeast Texas beginning in 1870, Devil's Pocket follows the saga of three families that twine and intertwine so fully that murder had to result. With a background that produced the non-fiction work Black Gold to Bluegrass: From the Oil Fields of Texas to Spindletop Farm of Kentucky, Fred B. McKinley hits a home run with this, his first novel and provocative historical thriller.
Morgan Colebridge, oil millionaire and Texas’ favorite son, abruptly stopped his sleek, yellow Pierce-Arrow convertible in front of long-time friend Nathan Blaine’s stable and killed the motor. For a few moments, though, he waited before opening the door, reliving the terrible admission made by his wife. Morgan’s heart beat wildly, and his eyes blazed with hatred toward the one man whom he once trusted enough to be his partner. Before stepping from the car, he reached back and picked up a loaded Colt forty-five revolver from the passenger seat—and as he hurriedly walked to the entrance, the gravel crunched beneath his boots.
Passing through the dust kicked up by skidding tires, Morgan muttered aloud, “If I’d only paid more attention to Rachael’s concerns, maybe I could have spared everyone needless grief. But … I didn’t listen. So, all that’s left now is to end it once and for all. That sorry son of a bitch can’t do this to my family and then slink away like nothing ever happened.”
Inside, Nathan sat at a small desk in his office, trembling. He knew that Morgan would come, but he didn’t think it would be so soon. “I should have gone to him and explained everything. It’s all been a terrible mistake.”
When Morgan entered the room, Nathan quickly rose from his chair. He pleaded, “Old friend, you’ve known me for quite a while, and we’ve been through a lot together. Please listen to reason. At the very least, you owe me that much.”
With a quivering voice, the oilman responded angrily, “I don’t owe you a goddamn thing, you rotten bastard! Besides, the time for talking ended a few minutes ago. Rachael told me everything I need to know.”
Within a blink of an eye, he grabbed Nathan, and the two struggled violently. The gun fell to the floor—and suddenly, a shot rang out.
Each time Susannah recalled this particular account, she found it almost incomprehensible. “My God,” she exclaimed. “What a tragic chain of events that should most probably be left alone. But I need to tell it before I die. After all, it’s Grandmother’s wish.” Susannah reached for a tattered journal, turned to the first entry, and began to read.
“My name is Emma Marie Thomas. I don’t know much about my past, and there are no relatives to ask. There never were. So, on these pages—and for all practical purposes, my life begins. Because memories soon fade, it’s my desire that others take pen in hand and continue where I’ve left off, thereby recording the grains of time before they disperse into the four winds to be lost forever.”
For years, this passage of her grandmother’s diary had haunted Susannah Fletcher who vowed one day to finish the story of her family. She’d been at the project for what seemed an eternity, and now finally, in the still of a fall morning in 1980, she had accomplished most of what she’d set out to do. Susannah had slipped from her bed early and into the den where she sat in her favorite chair, coffee in hand, putting on paper the last few entries.
Along with Emma’s diary, she combined the vivid recollections of an elderly family servant who’d requested that she keep the details of intrigue, deceit—and murder a secret until all involved family members had died. Susannah always honored that wish, but none of that, however, mattered any longer. These restrictions were recently lifted since she now represented the last of the participants in a stirring saga that portrayed the lustful times and rich spirit of an oil-producing region that stretched from 1870 through the 1920s and beyond.
And too, there was another reason for Susannah’s urgency to complete the undertaking. Within the last three months, she’d been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and recently, the pain had become more intense. Doctors had given her at the most three months to live. While she wrestled with the inevitable, Susannah fumbled with a delicate, tarnished silver amulet and chain, so small that both fit in the palm of her hand. There was nothing special or valuable about this Celtic cross, but in sentimental terms, the heirloom represented a prized possession. From all reports, it originated with Emma’s mother, passed to Emma, then to her daughter, Kit Colebridge, and finally to Susannah, its current holder, who planned to give it to her granddaughter, Jean Robertson. Tears welled in Susannah’s eyes as she recalled lost loved ones while stopping occasionally to read from Emma’s diary penciled with words of heartache and despair, and written on crude parchment so bleached by time that its interpretation proved a most formidable challenge.
In an exciting historical adventure, Devil’s Pocket, Fred B. McKinley brings us sex and secrets during the times when black gold was the lure for men striving to make their fame and fortune. More, he gives us three family stories that twine and intertwine so fully that murder had to resultsecrets always come out!
McKinley uses his knowledge and research for his earlier book, Black Gold to Bluegrass, a nonfiction account of the second Spindletop oil boom that occurred in 1925 in Beaumont, Texas. With this background, he has created a thrilling first novel that pulls readers into the time and feelings of those who lived and searched for the rich oil lands in early America.
The main thrust of the book follows the life of Morgan, a young ambitious man who moved quickly and easily from one job to another as he sought to secure his financial future. While ambitious, he was also a man who loved and respected his family, working diligently to provide support and a home for his mother and sister.
Rachael fell in love with Morgan upon first sight. She was the daughter of a rich man and the granddaughter of an even richer man! Morgan had come to Rachael’s father to seek financial support in one of his ventures. Thoughts of Rachael or any other woman were far from his plans, as he became friends with her father. Many years went by as Rachael waited and longed for Morgan to notice and come to love her.
A simple love story? Not!
While waiting for Morgan, Rachael foolishly flirts with the wrong man, and because he doesn’t listen to her when she tells him to “stop,” she later finds herself pregnant. Rachael wants both to keep her child and to not have to admit that she is hers. Her lies later leave her daughter in the same situation and with the same man--her father!
As Morgan is busily making an honorable name for himself and working continuously to move forward toward his goals, oil is struck at Spindletop and he gets a touch of the “fever” that many men followed and for which many men failed. Morgan had his sights set on leasing land that he felt would be rich with oil. The only problem was that Rachael’s grandfather owned it! Morgan went to his friend, Rachael’s father, hoping to work through him to gain support to lease his father-in-law’s land, but they had been enemies since the birth of Rachael since his daughter had died giving birth. However, there was one thing that the two men had in commona love for Rachael so strong that they could put aside their estrangement and secretly work toward making Rachael happy; i.e., married to Morgan!
Devil’s Pocket was the bait...
Oil was struck there—richer even than Spindletop! But at what cost? For in the end, Morgan and his sister were dead and so was Rachael, her father, and her grandfather.
Susannah Fletcher, a granddaughter, was one of the few left. She wore a tarnished cross from a grandmother she had never known. And she was given her diary to haunt her until she found the true story of what had happened to all of the family members, now all gone.
The early 1900s were hard times. Women were often left to carry the burden of children from lost loves. Men left to try to find the fortunes that they knew they were due. Some found them; most did not. Devil’s Pocket presents the drama behind those lustful times. McKinley may have written the fiction; but readers will easily and quickly believe that all of the events could easily have been real. He has created characters you will hate immediately. Some are crafty and selfish and want their own way. Others love and work hard to provide for their families. They were killed due to greed, love, pride, but most of all, fear.
Readers interested in historical fiction will find this a well-written, well-researched story of the time when black gold fever touched our lands. Devil’s Pocket, hopefully, will not be the last story about this time period. This reader is already looking for a McKinley sequel!
G. A. Bixler
IP Book Reviewer
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Reader Reviews for "Devil's Pocket"
|Reviewed by Glenda Bixler
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