THE DARK MOUNTAINS by William Hoffman


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At first this seems like a typical 1930's labor relations novel -- coal king, company town, and weak heirs to a strong man's empire losing out to a labor union trend through combined decadence and apathy. Actually, the book is much better than the first impression. If it isn't fine writing, it's at least good storytelling -- even if the framework is familiar. The stereotypes listed above emerge into flesh and blood possibility as the story unfolds of James MacGlaughlin, a Scotch immigrant who had clawed a kingdom out of a Virginia mountain until he had become the immovable object that meets a labor union's irresistible force. MacGlaughlin played God in his company town -- an Old Testament God who fell into rages. A young man, who watched his father beaten like an animal, escaped what MacGlaughlin really considered a miner's paradise and returned as a union organizer, snowballing general grievances into real issues. It became a small war (as so many did in the '30's) with private armies, public bloodshed and political connivance. The novel is as long as the man's life and as crowded with his restive relatives as with his workers. To the author's credit, none of his characters ever get lost in a book that holds a wide screen cast. This is not THE GREAT UNION NOVEL, but it is a good one. Neither Capital nor Labor comes through with Virtue held captive and men will enjoy it without having their sense of accuracy or history offended.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1963
Publisher: Doubleday