138 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI plans to build an oil-handling terminal at the Natchez-Adams County Port to ship its oil to be refined and sold. The port also saw other oil industry traffic increasing as the terminus of a rail route bringing dilbit—a combination of bitumen and diluents— from the oil sands ofAlberta to be shipped downriver to refineries on the Gulf coast. This route included the Natchez Railway running between Natchez and Brookhaven, which mostly served the lumber and paper industry. Optimistic as some in the Lower River counties were are concerns about the long term economic sustainability of exploration in the Tuscaloosa formation. The expense and difficulty of bringing up oil from the formation make the shale oil drilling very much a gamble. In late 2014, oil prices plummeted and fracking suddenly became an expensive and GREG ILES New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles was born on April 8, 1960, in Stuttgart, Germany, where his father, Dr. Jerry W. Iles, ran the U.S. Embassy Medical Clinic. Upon returning home to the southern United States in 1963, the Iles family settled in the small Mississippi River city of Natchez—the place they have called home for more than five decades. Heavily influenced by his parents—Dr. Iles, a widely respected and beloved community physician, and Betty Iles, a highly intelligent English teacher and librarian—Iles showed artistic talent at a young age, learning to play guitar and writing creatively. In high school, Iles played on the football team and earned the honor of National Merit Finalist. After graduating from Trinity Episcopal School in 1978, Iles went on to attend the University of Mississippi, where he graduated with a B.A. in English in 1983. While at Ole Miss, Iles lived in a cabin in which William Faulkner and his brothers had spent time listening to stories told by “Mammy Callie,” a nanny and former slave. After graduating from college, Iles followed his passion for music, performing professionally with his band, Frankly Scarlet, throughout the 1980s. Despite his talent and love for music, Iles realized, for him, this was not likely to be a substantial way to earn a living and decided to begin work on his first novel. He spent two years writing Spandau Phoenix, which was published in 1993. Two years later, Iles completed his second novel, Black Cross, a thriller about Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess. The work earned Iles his first spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Iles’s fifth novel, 24 Hours, published in 2000, was later made into a film titled Trapped, for which Iles helped write the screenplay and assisted on set. In March 2011, Iles experienced a life-threating car accident near his home in Natchez. During his multi-year recovery from a ruptured aorta, many broken bones, and amputation of his right leg, Iles completed a trilogy based on real-life civil rights murders carried out by a covert militant cell of the Ku Klux Klan in and around Concordia Parish, Louisiana in the 1960s. The titles in the trilogy, which builds on the story of beloved protagonist Penn Cage and uncovers hidden parts of the South’s painful past, include Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, and Mississippi Blood. In a review of Natchez Burning, Bookpage described Iles as “William Faulkner for the Breaking Bad generation.” In total, Iles has published sixteen novels—thirteen of which are New York Times bestsellers—and one novella. His novels cover a variety of genres and have been translated into over twenty languages and published in nearly forty countries around the world. Iles continues to reside in his hometown of Natchez. His latest novel, Mississippi Blood, which completed his long-awaited trilogy, reached number one on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Additionally, for more than a decade, Iles has performed as a member of the literary music group the Rock Bottom Remainders, which includes well-known authors Stephen King, Scott Turow, Dave Berry, and others. PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL difficult process. The future of fracking in the Lower River counties remains uncertain. Agriculture in the region is on somewhat steadier ground. A little more than 100 years after the arrival of the first county agent, farmers continued to rely on the Extension Service and the Mississippi Farm Bureau. As a result, they now have far more adaptability in the face of changing conditions than their forebears, locked in cotton monoculture, could ever have managed. In 2009, the farmers of the Lower River counties were dealing with a period of low cotton prices. Before World War II, this would have meant tight circumstances or maybe ruin for many. Today, farmers have been educated by decades of Extension Service work and Mississippi Farm Bureau programs, and