by Stephen O. Sears
During 1942 and 1943, German U-boats sank over one hundred tankers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, blocking the flow of crude oil to the refineries in the northeastern US. In response, the American government encouraged drilling in South Florida, resulting in the discovery of oil by a wildcat well in the Florida Everglades. And during this time, four German saboteurs landed by U-boat in Florida, and were caught and subsequently executed.These apparently unrelated and largely forgotten historical facts are the backdrop for the extraordinary adventure of Jerry MacDonald, a young geologist who travels south from Manhattan to Florida with his wife, Maria, in the spring of 1943. MacDonald has been dispatched to interpret the geological findings as a wildcat well is drilled in the wilderness of southwest Florida. Faced with constant questions about his civilian status while his contemporaries are joining the Armed Forces, guilt and uncertainty comingle with the pleasure of a trip to an exotic location. Jerry and his wife Maria arrive at the small town of Everglades City to find an isolated village that exemplifies the culture of the Deep South in the middle of the twentieth century. The challenges of setting up a drilling rig in the marshy terrain of the Everglades and spudding a wildcat well preoccupy Jerry, while Maria finds work as a bartender in the Turner Hotel. As the well is drilled, the German U-boat rampage taking place in the nearby Gulf of Mexico violently collides with the lives of the MacDonalds, the drilling crew, and the inhabitants of the Everglades.