Hume, a young investigative journalist who works with Washington columnist Jack Anderson, propounds the coal conspiracy theory which is hardly theoretical at this point in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence that, more often than not during the past 25 years, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the coal companies, and the United Mine Workers have formed a collusive triptych working against the best interests of the average miner. Following World War II, this under-the-table partnership at least made some sense: the industry was at rock bottom economically and the ""sweetheart"" deals permitting the companies to renege on miner welfare benefits, etc. helped rehabilitate the coal business. By 1962 however, when W. A. (Tony) Boyle and his claque replaced the oracular John L. Lewis at the top of the UMW, the industry had recovered its prewar strength. But Boyle, volatile and fatuous, continued to run the union in the same tyrannical, high and sometimes underhanded way Lewis had, though without John L's shrewdness. Hume is at his best --and this is very good indeed -- when describing how Boyle's cushy world began cracking apart after the 1968 Farmington (West Virginia) mine disaster which killed 78 and brought on passels of criticism from Ralph Nader, local congressmen, the newly formed Black Lung Association, and others concerned with miners' safety and disease. Boyle's troubles multiplied the following year when Joseph Yablonski, at the urging of Nader, turned on his former UMW cronies and challenged Boyle for the union leadership. Now mutterings of Boyle's complicity in Yablonski's subsequent murder (unproven thus far), the Labor Department's current investigation of UMW election fraud, and Boyle's upcoming trial for embezzlement of union funds have stripped him of all creditability. Hume reports these black doings with withering contempt for Boyle and feeling compassion for the miners who always seem to get the shall. A major piece of labor reportage.