Flynn’s first novel takes place in 1920s Baltimore and features a perspective on this time period not often seen.
No Roaring ’20 here—this is the story of a common man, a soldier just back from World War I, who starts rebuilding his life from nothing through hard labor at a steel mill. Henry Dawson lives in a boardinghouse in near poverty and shovels coal onto a conveyor belt six days a week. He finds more work through a co-worker, whose father oversees the dirt works at Venable Park. Venable is a football stadium being constructed to draw big games to the city and upgrade its national image. The project needs men good with shovels, and it offers a chance for those with smarts and ambition to get a little ahead. Although a commoner, Henry is uncommon in his understanding of life’s fundamentals, his acceptance of his fellows (during a time of institutionalized bigotry, he befriends and respects anyone who deserves it, regardless of race or position), and his willingness to conduct himself with integrity. He’s also one of the few among his class who can read and write and has a lick of sense. These traits set him up to clash with liars, cheaters and bullies, all of whom occupy key positions at both the mill and the stadium. Although he never looks for trouble, it manages to find him, and though most of the time he’s wise enough to walk away, sometimes he knows it’s important to stand and fight. But he always pays for that integrity, whether by being terrorized in the war or losing his job. The author expertly balances Henry’s unique account against a universal story through the voice of a memorable character. At the same time, he brings alive an era and place rarely combined in fiction. This book will satisfy folks who prefer literary novels with dark or tragic undertones.
A simple, sad narrative of one good man’s ongoing struggles.