Like thousands of restless men left unmoored in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Michael Patrick Smith arrived in the fracking boomtown of Williston, North Dakota homeless, unemployed, and desperate for a job. Renting a mattress on a dirty flophouse floor, he slept boot to beard with migrant men who came from all across America and as far away as Jamaica, Africa and the Philippines. They ate together, drank together, argued like crows and searched for jobs they couldn’t get back home. Smith’s goal was to find the hardest work he could do—to find out if he could do it. He hired on in the oil patch where he toiled fourteen hour shifts from summer’s 100 degree dog days to deep into winter’s bracing whiteouts, all the while wrestling with the demons of a turbulent past, his broken relationships with women, and the haunted memories of a family riven by violence.
Meet the Author
Michael Patrick F. Smith is the author of, The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown, in which he details life working the rigs during North Dakota’s Bakken oil boom. It was released on Viking Press, a division of Penguin Random House, in February of 2021. The LA Times called it “A sprawling, heart-smeared-on-the-page howl of rage and pain. The Good Hand is a rambling honky-tonk of a book, with the soul of a songwriter and the ache of a poor white boy who grew up rough. It is big and it is pretty and it is amazing.” The Atlantic called it “Beautiful, funny, and harrowing” The NY Times writes that Smith’s” perspective is a morality, and a relief in a world quick to dismiss, quick to divide and quick to believe that American work is now only about collecting data and selling knowledge…Smith wrote a book that should be read.” Smith also works as a musician. He has shared the stage with folk luminaries such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Happy Traum as well as several prominent indie rock bands. The audio book edition of The Good Hand contains recordings of seven original songs as well as incidental music composed by Smith. Smith has worked as an actor, a bartender, junk hauler, furniture mover, bookstore clerk, contractor, guitar player, receptionist, event producer, driver, office temp, stagehand, waiter, security guard, set fabricator, legal assistant, grocer, oil field hand, and writer. In May of 2021, Smith testified before Congress, advocating for better pay and working conditions for oil field workers and requesting that new green energy jobs be placed in extractive communities such as North Dakota and Kentucky.