Before 2008, western North Dakota was a faded frontier. The vast and sparsely-populated area had been steadily losing population since the Great Depression. But the discovery of the Bakken oil fields, in combination with new fracking technology, paved the way for what Maya Rao calls a modern-day gold rush.
North Dakota quickly became the fastest-growing state in the country and the nation’s second largest oil producer. It boasted plenty of well-paying jobs and attracted transients from all over.
In the new book “Great American Outpost: Dreamers, Mavericks, and the Making of an Oil Frontier,” (PublicAffairs/2018) Rao profiles fortune-seekers ranging from Outer Banks surfer Danny Witt to a British real estate developer who ran a worldwide Ponzi scheme. She looks at how capitalism and industrialization transformed a desolate corner of the United States. Host Frank Stasio talks to journalist and author Maya Rao in advance of her reading at Quail Ridge Books on Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m and Scuppernong Books in Greensboro Thursday, May 31 at 7 p.m.