S.S. Bazinet’s Review of The Last Shot
February 16, 2023
Caleb Pirtle III
Review: A biography that sometimes reads like a mystery, keeping the reader guessing about what’s going to happen next.
Max Williams should not have been a great basketball player. He was too short. He came from the small Texas town of Avoca. He had only twelve in his graduating class. But nobody could stop him or slow him down. Max Williams became the all-time scoring leader for Texas High Schools. He was an All-American at SMU, a flashy passer, a deadly shooter.
Max Williams should have not even been in the oilfield. He had majored in insurance. He had been a high-dollar player in Dallas commercial real estate, but the bottom fell out of the market. He was dead broke when he gambled on oil exploration and ventured into the Austin chalk of Giddings, Texas. He knew very little about the business, but he drilled on guts and on gumption alone.
Giddings was known as the field of broken dreams. Major companies had drilled in the chalk and left behind dry holes and empty pockets. But Max Williams didn’t flinch. He defied the dreaded Austin Chalk and developed the nation’s greatest and most profitable oilfield in half a century.
He was never afraid of adversity. He was never afraid of failure. All Max Williams ever wanted on the basketball court or in the Texas oilfield was a chance to take the last shot.
Review by S.S. Bazinet:
For seven years and nine months, Max Williams got up early. Before he went to work, he traveled to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to welcome back soldiers who were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them were still a long way from home, and Max Williams wanted them to see a friendly face and to welcome them back. That’s the kind of person that he was. Besides being a person who cared, he had a reputation for being honest and keeping his word.
The Last Shot is a biography about Max Williams. It’s a story that spans his brilliant career on the basketball court, in real estate, and his risk-taking ventures in Texas oil. It’s the story of a man who triumphed over all the obstacles that stood in his way. But it’s not just a collection of facts about his life, not when the story has been written by Caleb Pirtle. Pirtle takes you on a fascinating journey that Max Williams traveled. It’s one you’ll remember because you’ll feel like you experienced it too.
Max’s story began in a very small, Texas town called Avoca. It was so small that there weren’t enough boys for the school to have a football team. But basketball only needed five players. Max Williams became one of those five, and he had what it took to help his team win games. By the time he got to high school, he already had a reputation for being an outstanding player.
As a reader, I didn’t know I could care so much about how Max and his teammates fared during his years in school. However, with Pirtle’s ability to create excitement, tension, and action on the written page, I soon became as enthusiastic as any fan in the stands. I felt like I was at basketball games and living Max’s play by play achievements. I enthusiastically rooted for him as he gave his all for a win. And Max did win games. He finished high school as a champion and the state’s leading scorer with 3,360 points.
After high school, Max was ready for what came next, college ball. There was only one problem. Max Williams is five-foot-eleven-inches tall. He was much too short for coaches who were looking for guys who were six-foot-eight and taller. But Max proved that height didn’t matter. After getting into SMU, he played fair, and he played with tenacity. He was called a “high-flying Houdini with a basketball.” Caleb Pirtle brings Max’s Houdini showmanship to life with images that left me holding my breath and reading as fast as possible to find out what Max would do next. During his time at SMU, Max Williams held the free throw percentage season record for the university in 1958 and 1960.
After college, Max brought his tenacious spirit to real estate and finally to oil. I don’t know anything about oil and wasn’t particularly interested in what goes into finding the stuff – until Pirtle’s powerful narrative gave me a reason to care. After the story transported me to the Austin chalk fields of Giddings, Texas, I became one of the tense onlookers at drill sites. I watched nervously and listened to a drill sinking its bit deeper and deeper into the earth, thousands of feet down.
Swept up by Pirtle’s stunning descriptions of what drilling for oil entailed, I could appreciate how much courage and conviction Max Williams needed to keep going. I could almost feel the hot, dry winds that he felt as he asked himself question after question. Will the ground be so unforgiving, as hard as concrete, that the bit breaks? Will the money run out before the well produces oil? If the drill hits oil, will the precious stuff peter out after a few barrels? Will the well die before it’s even born? The way Caleb Pirtle writes about finding oil, I couldn’t help but care, worry and wonder right along with Max Williams.
The Last Shot is a biography that sometimes reads like a mystery, keeping the reader guessing about what’s going to happen next. At other times, it’s about life’s ups and downs and how to keep going. It’s always about a man, Max Williams, who did things few of us ever dream about. Told by Caleb Pirtle, it’s a story that inspires the reader. It encourages us to care about life and to be one of the people who don’t give up. In the case of Max Williams, we find that his spirit never dimmed, no matter what hardships he faced. He was always willing to give every challenge a last shot.
Please click HERE to find The Last Shot on Amazon.