Synopsis of “BACKLASH”, a Novel by Gary Ivey


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Axiom Oil, Inc. is the nation’s largest oil company with gas stations nationwide plus overseas.  Jacqueline (Jackie) James, VP of Operations, is the daughter of CEO Donald “Junior,” James, who guided the company through going public, mergers and acquisitions until it became an international player.  But everything changes when he dies suddenly.

Jackie, 38 and never married, is more like her scrappy grandfather, a 1920s wildcatter, than her MBA father.  She’s earned everything she’s ever gotten, including the respect of stockholders and employees.  She becomes CEO of the nation’s largest gasoline retailer over the objections of the old-boy network on the Board of Directors.

The next day, an Axiom offshore drilling rig is attacked by a radical environmental terror cell and one of the workers dies, which the news media portrays as negligence on the part of the oil company, creating a public relations nightmare.  When a Senator uses the “accident” to push through an additional major gas tax, Axiom’s finance people tell Jackie that the new tax wipes out their profit on motor fuel for the fourth quarter.  Jackie knows that drastic action is necessary.

Secretly, the Senator salivates over the windfall of tax money which will result from his punishing tax.  His plan is to add a $2.00 tax to each gallon of gasoline sold but only allow the oil companies to pass on $1.00 to the consumer as a punitive measure.  Ostensibly the additional revenue will be used to research alternative fuels.

Patrick Garrity, newspaper reporter for the Washington Herald, is sent to write about Jackie’s leadership at Axiom and they begin a wary friendship.

Jackie hatches a bold and dangerous plan.  She decides that the only way to maintain profitability for the stockholders is to not sell any gasoline or diesel fuel during the fiscal fourth quarter, because the company would lose money on every gallon they sold.  This would also send a message to the government and wouldn’t break any laws.

Because of her relations with people of Axiom at every level, she is able to sell the plan, ending her campaign with an encrypted satellite teleconference in which the plan is explained to all employees and stockholders (many are both).

The company conducts a news conference in Washington, DC, to announce “Operation Backlash,” a three month period in which the company will not sell gasoline.  As a result, Jackie is called before a Senate Committee, where the senators try unsuccessfully to bully Jackie, using everything from threats of injunctions to insisting that the people NEED the gas. She argues that Axiom cannot operate at a loss and if it is no longer profitable to sell gasoline then they will not sell it.  Belatedly, the senators realize there may not be a bonanza of tax money because of the moratorium.

Patrick Garrity is at the hearing as part of his duties as a reporter, but his interest in Jackie has become personal.  He admires her strength and focus.

On July 1 Axiom stops selling gas.

The impact on the country’s economy is tremendous, though people argue about whether it is the moratorium or the tax that is causing the downturn.

Fuel prices skyrocket to $6 per gallon. Shortages develop.  People are laid off.

As a result of the downturn in the economy, Federal tax revenues drop instead of providing the increased revenue that had been expected.

This sparks panic and violence in some cities.  Looting breaks out as people take what they think is owed them.  An Axiom filling station is firebombed, resulting in the death of the manager.  Meanwhile, the company faces a legal challenge from stockholders and the threat of a teamsters’ strike.

Jackie feels like she has made a mistake.  Her enemies within the company try to oust her but her friends ralley and stop the mutiny.  The moratorium ends with the November election only a month away.

Finally, Jackie’s life is threatened when she comes face to face with the environmental terrorist cell leader and has to use all her resourcefulness to survive.

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Read about Backlash 2: Justice Denied