A fictional account of a real, deadly day.
In 1914, when coal miners in several Colorado communities went on strike for more pay and better working conditions, they and their families were forced out of company-owned housing. They set up tent camps and continued to strike. Tempers flared among the miners, scab workers, and coal company officials; eventually, the National Guard set up militia nearby. On April 21, miners and militia fought a deadly battle whose origin is unclear; by the end of the day, 20 people had been killed, including two women and 11 children who suffocated in the cellar where they sought refuge. Anderson's latest in his Horrors of History series begins with this grisly sight and then flashes back two days with his imagined story of how it came to be. The narrative comes at readers from all angles, with no clear main character or point of view but with far too many characters for easy comprehension. The background of the strike is hard to understand, the topography of the attack murky, and the violence inexplicable. Anderson seems to revel in gory details, as when a 10-year-old boy is shot: "A bullet had torn off a large chunk of Frank's skull and brain."
This novel neither elucidates nor entertains; it's hard to see a reason for it. (Historical fiction. 12-16)