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"...Drilling Ahead adequately covers the industry, and does so in a down-to-earth style that the casual reader can enjoy. In the hands of the wrong author this book could easily have been a literary dry hole. Such is not the case with Drilling Ahead."

--Jim Frazier, Book Review, The Mississippi Capitalist

Julann L. Callender

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

Reviewed in the United States on January 27, 2016

Verified Purchase

Great book


John Shaw

5.0 out of 5 stars Educating a geologist about oil

Reviewed in the United States on September 27, 2017

Although I have a B.S. In Geology from the University of Alabama, I never took Petroleum Geology. So Mr. Cockrell's book was not only enjoyable, but an educational tool for me. This book is extremely well written and presents a history of the petroleum industry in the Deep South. After reading this book, one learns how drilling an oil well is not only expensive, but very chancy...a combination of experience and luck. Some of the people mentioned in the book were my professors at the University. I thought the last chapter (Epilogue) was the author at his best! That chapter about the old well driller and his antiquated cable tool rig, with his elderly wife sitting in the doghouse knitting, and his dogged determination to strike oil, was just superb!


Kimble M.

5.0 out of 5 stars Deep South Oil History for Everyone

Reviewed in the United States on July 16, 2008

This is a book written for the lay person. It explains the geologic processes that made petroleum and hid it in layers of deep sands and porous rock. It describes the art, science and luck involved in finding oil and natural gas, along with the evolution of techniques for extracting it from underground structures that would rather not give it up. It acquaints the reader with the sometimes complex deals that organize land owners, speculators, drillers and producers around a common goal. It also introduces the lingo of the oil business.

Works about the history of technology risk focusing on technology to the exclusion of all else, limiting their audience and making them tedious. Not so with this one. Cockrell weaves a rich tapestry of concepts and chronology around the characters, producing an engaging and eminently readable account of every major oil find in Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida.

The stories of the oil industry people are likely to remain with the reader far longer than the history, geology and technology. These independent spirits, wild with enthusiasm, chased their dreams, sometimes for decades. Some got rich; some died trying. It is clear from how Cockrell tells their stories that has great affection for them.

A glossary, references and an index are provided.

Donald R. Walton

5.0 out of 5 stars Inside Poop on the Oil Patch

Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2009

Cockrell tells the story of the exploration and development of the oil and gas fields of Alabama and Mississippi from an insider's perspective, but in an engaging, accessible way that should appeal to the general reader. As an oil industry professional, I appreciated his solid technical descriptions and accurate, if somewhat arcane, oilfield jargon describing the deal-making and interplay of personalities in the discovery and development of the major plays in the region.

It was an education for me to see the inner workings of the regulatory side of the industry, again Cockrell speaks from authentic experience, providing a unique and refreshing perspective on the synergy of government and private industry in the development of these strategic resources, showing how very much dependent we are on individuals who carry forth and share their visions.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the oil and gas industry, and especially that of the deep South.


Booktopia (Australia)

The discovery of oil in Tinsley, Mississippi, in 1939 captivated the South and has deeply affected the region ever since. At the end of 1940, over 133 wells were flowing, and speculators were drilling holes and staking claims all along the Gulf Coast and its immediate environs. Consequently, the region's economy, ecosystems, and politics have been shaped by black gold since the end of World War II.

Alan Cockrell, a petroleum geologist, provides an insider's account of the science of oil hunting, the political processes that help or hinder it, and the advances in technology that make it all possible. This book documents the ways in which wars, foreign competition, governmental regulation, and new business models affect oil exploration, and what that means to the South's people.

Just as significantly, Cockrell provides compelling commentary on the people who hunt for petroleum, from pioneering wildcatters such as Chesley Pruet to savvy geologists focusing on science and technology Drilling Ahead documents the triumphs and travails of oil hunters. Mavericks, underworld characters, professors, lawyers, and environmentalists have all played major roles in the South's oil production.

A fascinating study of corporations, economies, and people, Drilling Ahead is a compelling, opinionated narrative as well as an exhaustively researched history.

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