Richly entertaining melodrama about the US labor movement, reminiscent of both early Steinbeck and John Sayles’s Union Dues, from the prolific author of popular naval adventures (such as The Circle, 1992) and sociopolitical thrillers (e.g., The Only Thing to Fear, 1995). The story’s set in western Pennsylvania’s “Petroleum City,” site of the Thunder Oil Company, and a disastrous industrial accident that kills five workers and sets their surviving “brethren” against a management indifferent to cost-ineffective safety procedures—and determined to break the will of the hastily assembled union. CIO organizer (and Communist Party member) Doris Golden spearheads the struggle, abetted by sturdy, young well-driller W.T. Halvorsen (with whom she soon begins an affair). Thunder Oil’s President Dan Thunner (a well-drawn and by no means simply evil character) hires cold-eyed Pinkerton man and professional strikebreaker Pearl Deatherage (a Gordon Liddy—like amoralist), thus setting in motion a smartly paced series of impassioned meetings (even Eleanor Roosevelt shows up, the time being 1936), pitched battles, and other crises, climaxing with a winner-take-all boxing match (!) between Halvorsen (who’s handy with his dukes) and Thunner’s carefully groomed show fighter, murderous Jack McKee. Few readers will likely resist this exhilarating nonsense, despite an abundance of clichÇs (yes, there’s a turncoat who eventually finds his manhood and makes a supreme sacrifice; and Poyer does end with Halvorsen’s crassly Steinbeckian vow that “as long as somebody was hungry . . . . He knew . . . [who] he was going to stand with”). The novel is fortunately graced by consistently vivid writing and knowingly detailed descriptions of such relevant manly pursuits as boxing and deerhunting along with (really first-rate) explications of the oil refining process. If Poyer hasn’t exactly rewritten The Grapes of Wrath, he has given us a rousing good read, and one that ought to make a nifty miniseries.