So, you know Jerry’s novel is set in an oil boom town in Oklahoma in 1930. He’s got all the details you would want regarding a 1930 oil derrick, but that’s about all. Even though it’s not a historical novel, I want the other details to be right.
Initially, all I wanted to know was if they had poker chips in 1930. I started looking a week ago. I don’t know the answer, because then I began reading about the money in 1930, and that was amazing, because 1929 was the year they decided to carve an inch off the money. In 1928 the standard currency was an inch bigger all around. I say standard - there was a lot of non-standard currency issued by regional national banks. Before that, if you were a bank, evidently you could just make up your own currency, and it was very pretty, and before that you could have square bills if you like, like Confederate money, and thirty percent of the currency was counterfeit. I tell you this because I have to tell someone, because that week’s worth of research is going to be boiled down to one descriptive phrase.
For more research I also watched a pretty poor Clark Gable movie named Boom Town — and I was frightened every moment that Jerry might have watched it and I would see an example of subconscious plagiarism unfolding on the screen — but I was relieved to see a) it was about wildcatters and was b) actually pretty inaccurate.
(The money in the movie was entirely wrong for the time period. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.)
Also, they would have us believe that you name an oil well after your girlfriend, as you would a bomber jet, when anyone knows you name it after whoever’s name is first on the land lease. Please.
[Spoilers, if you can spoil a movie from 1940.] There was one very unrealistic plot hole — Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert meet and spend a pleasant evening at a rodeo. (That was a scary moment - there was a rodeo in Jerry’s book.) The next morning, Claudette’s boyfriend Spencer Tracy shows up and she says, sorry, met and married Clark Gable here yesterday. They weren’t in Vegas, no one was drunk, just somewhere between 12 midnight when they were winding up their date and seven the next morning they fell in love, and, “got married.” I know, 1940’s movie, set in 1918-1940, but for God’s sake.
Of course, it was actually pretty entertaining to see their interpretation of a boom town and compare it to Jerry’s. The movie has an oil well gusher and it’s a marvelous event — compared to Jerry’s book preaching about how gushers are a scandalous waste of money, they catch fire, burning oil rains down on people, it’s not fun. I suppose it’s some gritty realism. Accuracy over drama.
We’ll have to see what’s next, if I can ever get out of this research rabbit hole.