By Kelly Bell, East Texas Review
For East Texas, the Year of Our Lord 1942 was as pivotal as it was for the rest of the world. Off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico German submarines were sinking oil tankers in bunches. Here in the Pineywoods oilmen, politicians and chambers of commerce were toiling to have a pipeline laid to carry petroleum to East Coast refineries so that vehicles of all kinds would have gasoline to perform their crucial tasks in the European Theater of Operations. They succeeded. Natural disasters, recalcitrant unions and state governments were bypassed to make possible this 1400-mile project. The pipeline started in Longview, and was state-of-the-art. It was the personification of the massive contribution East Texas made to the war effort that saved the world from Axis tyranny. This oil conduit was called the Big Inch because of its 24-inch-circumfrence. Another pipe called the Little Big Inch carried crude from Beaumont to New Jersey. This Texas-based contribution to final victory in World War II is far too vital to be forgotten–even after 75 years.
In honor of this East Texas heroism Diamond Anniversary, writer Kimberly Fish has come out with a novel based on the pipeline and the accompanying security measures that foiled sabotage efforts by enemy operatives. Fish created characters involved with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and uses Longview as the book’s setting where these fictitious characters; struggle along with the city to overcome the barriers and perils that take place when conflicting missions collide. Although the book is fiction, its setting is in accurate accord with how the Gregg County Historical Museum and various works of non-fiction chronicle the scene during the project’s operation. By changing names and inventing fictional but entertaining events, the author distances the story from reality.
Titled Big Inch. the novel is available from Amazon, Kindle and, locally, at Barron’s in Longview. It weaves an intriguing storyline in which one Lane Mercer is sent to Longview in 1942 as part of a carefully selected unit of women working undercover for the OSS to assist the male courier carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s initiative to construct the pipeline. Upon arriving in Longview, Lane encounters and overcomes intrigue, mayhem and danger in her quest not only to insure the success of this project, but to redeem herself from an earlier, botched OSS assignment in France. Beset by familial obligations, inept do-gooders and Nazi opposition, she is entangled in a fascinating series of events that forces her to forsake her previously and carefully laid plans and devise new strategy that save not only the project, but her.
Fish commenced her writing career following the birth of her second child, when she purchased her first home computer. This new technology led to her winning a manuscript contest, whetting her love of written story-telling and -creating. She has written for magazines, newspapers and online formats. She lives and works in East Texas.