In his new book Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Sam Anderson writes about how Oklahoma’s storm chasers, though overly sensational and ratings-hungry, still provide crucial insight about Oklahoma’s notoriously destructive tornadoes:
Radar data, like starlight, is information about the past: it tells you about the distant object it bounced off seconds or minutes before. This can tell you a lot—that conditions are perfect for a big storm, that something is in the air—but it can’t actually look at the storm for you. For that, you still need people. Storm chasers provided the stations with what they call “ground truth.”
I like that: ground truth. And I thought it perfectly described Boom Town as a whole, which is bound for my 2018 best-of list.
The pleasure I felt from the first page on is a feeling I chase with all my reading. More than just a rote retelling of a city’s history, it’s a kaleidoscopic story of Oklahoma City that finds fascinating resonance between seemingly disparate elements. Anderson’s first-rate reportage on the OKC Thunder, tornadoes, Timothy McVeigh, city planning, a truly insane city founding story, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, and so much more made OKC seem familiar even to someone who’s never been there.
He wraps all of those things into a cohesive, sure-handed, wry, and enlightening narrative that says as much about Oklahoma as America at large. Highly recommended for history buffs, sports fans, and narrative nonfiction lovers especially.