Thunder on the Mountain (Hemlock County Series)

Thunder on the Mountain (Hemlock County Series)

5.0 1
by David Poyer

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David Poyer, well-known for his Navy thrillers, has been writing a series of ambitious novels set in the fictional Hemlock County, Pennsylvania, at various points in history in the last century, and involving families and characters that recur from book to book. The western Pennsylvania oil country, the historic area where the American oil industry was founded,


David Poyer, well-known for his Navy thrillers, has been writing a series of ambitious novels set in the fictional Hemlock County, Pennsylvania, at various points in history in the last century, and involving families and characters that recur from book to book. The western Pennsylvania oil country, the historic area where the American oil industry was founded, spawned Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller's fortune, and perhaps even the Sherman anti-trust laws, as well as generations of labor strife, but also borders some of the last virgin forest in the Eastern U.S. It is one of the cradles of the discontents of contemporary America.
Now Poyer returns to the terrible winter of 1936, and the strike to organize the workers in the Thunder Oil Company after a refinery disaster exposes the company's neglect of workers' safety. Our hero, the Tom Joad-like W. T. Halvorsen, earns the nickname "Red" when he becomes a leader of the strike against Daniel Thunner's family company, a strike that draws national attention, and the arrival of professional strikebreaker Pearl Deatherage and of CIO organizer Doris Golden. As the strike spreads in scale and violence, Halvorsen, Thunner and their ideas of honor and morality are put to the test. This is a tough, penetrating, violent novel in the American tradition that goes from Faulkner and Steinbeck to E. L. Doctorow and Mary Lee Settle to, now, David Poyer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Veteran writer Poyer triumphs in a powerful tale of an underdog hero fighting against an invincible robber baron. In strong, supple prose that propels a tension-filled narrative, he captures the revolutionary spirit behind the struggle against near-slave-labor conditions for workers--many of them immigrants--in a giant oil consortium in western Pennsylvania during the bitter winter of 1936. Bill Halvorsen is a promising boxer hired as a driller by Dan Thunner, the owner of Thunder Oil Company and a local boxing league. Bill is courting Jennie, a Slovakian Catholic immigrant, and trying to prove to her family that he's husband material with a steady job, when an explosion at a Thunder refinery exposes the lack of safety regulations that lead to the gruesome deaths of five men, including his fiancee's young brother. Using stark detail, Poyer depicts the conditions of employees with no security or safety protection, subject to wage cuts to subsistence level pay when profits were threatened. Halvorsen sparks a brief walkout, catching the attention of the CIO, and Doris Golden, a strike organizer with secret Communist ties, is sent to unionize the oil industry, starting with Thunder. The movement gains momentum until a professional strike buster, Pearl Deatherage, convinces Thunner that brute force and political briberies will smash the workers' revolt. The ruthless Deatherage pushes Thunner further into the scab market, leading to murders that are blamed on the strikers. Then Bill comes up with a desperate plan. The terrifying denouement further illuminates the complexities of the workers' plight, yet there's not one scene of gratuitous violence in a novel full of violent death. Poyer's (As the Wolf Loves Winter) pitch-perfect dialogue and explosive imagery capture both sides of the bloody battle that gave birth to the unions. This is a stunning period tale in which the oft-forgotten essence of the American dream is visible in every chapter. (Mar.)
Library Journal
A fiery accident at a Pennsylvania oil refinery in 1935 inspires the workers at Thunder Oil Company to strike. During a bitterly cold winter in the depths of the Depression, workers are desperate for decent food, better wages, warm housing, and fair treatment from management. When a ruthless professional strikebreaker and a CIO organizer with thinly veiled Communist sympathies join the dispute, the strike escalates to betrayal, sabotage, and murder. Poyer (As the Wolf Loves Winter, LJ 3/15/96) presents the story from many points of view, focusing on a young strike leader, the union organizer, the strikebreaker, and the oil company owner. No one is completely right, fair, honest, or loyal to his cause as the strike changes the lives of every person in the county. This fourth installment in Poyer's "Hemlock County" series, reminiscent of Steinbeck's Depression-era novels, is violent, touching, and incredibly sad as the story careens to its explosive conclusion. Highly recommended for larger fiction collections.--Karen Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix
Kirkus Reviews
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 clichés (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 detaileddescriptions 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. .

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
Hemlock County Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.72(h) x 1.10(d)

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Thunder on the Mountain (Hemlock County Series) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thunder on The Mountain is the perfect story of life in western Pennsylvania during the early days of "big oil." The characters are real, the setting is authentic, and the action is believable.