The Arabian Adventure of Wallace Stegner

Cynthia Haven in Stanford Magazine:

St0107_saudi3_qg_rev1In the early 1990s, Robert Vitalis was on a fellowship at Princeton preparing a book about the Arabian American Oil Company. One day in a seminar room, he overheard two young history professors discussing Wallace Stegner.

Was this the same Stegner who had written a book about American oil interests in Saudi Arabia? Vitalis asked. Nope, the professors assured him. The Stegner they were talking about was a Pulitzer-winning novelist and a pioneering voice in the fight to save our natural environment. He never wrote a book about Saudi Arabia.

They were wrong. Vitalis, now an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually learned that the Stegner who founded Stanford’s creative writing program was indeed the author of Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil, a tormented work-for-hire project about the early days of Saudi oil exploration in the 1930s and 1940s. Discovery! was serialized in 14 issues of the Arabian American Oil Company magazine Aramco World, beginning in 1968, 12 years after Stegner had turned in his manuscript to Aramco’s public relations department. Although eventually published as a book by Beirut’s Middle East Export Press in 1971, it has never been widely available.

More here.