These 10 fiction and non-fiction books about mining accidents and disasters offer a glimpse into the dark and often dangerous lives of miners and mineworkers.
1. Fire and Brimstone by Michael Punke
“The worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history began a half hour before midnight on June 8, 1917, when fire broke out in the North Butte Mining Company’s Granite Mountain shaft. Sparked more than two thousand feet below ground, the fire spewed flames, smoke, and poisonous gas through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Within an hour, more than four hundred men would be locked in a battle to survive. Within three days, one hundred and sixty-four of them would be dead.”
2. The Underworld by Kevin Canty
“In The Underworld, Kevin Canty tells a story inspired by the facts of a disastrous fire that took place in an isolated silver mining town in Idaho in the 1970s, in which almost everyone in town lost a friend, a lover, a brother, or a husband.”
3. Copper Sky by Milana Marsenich
“The feminine spirit of the West comes alive in early twentieth century Montana. Set in the Copper Camp of Butte, Montana in 1917, Copper Sky tells the story of two women with opposite lives. Kaly Shane, mired in prostitution, struggles to find a safe home for her unborn child, while Marika Lailich, a Slavic immigrant, dodges a pre-arranged marriage to become a doctor. As their paths cross, and they become unlikely friends, neither knows the family secret that ties them together.”
4. Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster by Melissa Fay Greene
“The deepest coal mine in North America was notoriously unpredictable. One late October evening in 1958, it ‘bumped’ – its rock floors heaving up and smashing into rock ceilings. A few miners staggered out, most of the 174 on shift did not.”
5. Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar
“When the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. The entire world watched what transpired above-ground during the grueling and protracted rescue, but the saga of the miners’ experiences below the Earth’s surface—and the lives that led them there—has never been heard until now.”
6. The Buffalo Creek Disaster by Gerald Stern
“One Saturday morning in February 1972, an impoundment dam owned by the Pittston Coal Company burst, sending a 130 million gallon, 25 foot tidal wave of water, sludge, and debris crashing into southern West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek hollow. It was one of the deadliest floods in U.S. history. 125 people were killed instantly, more than 1,000 were injured, and over 4,000 were suddenly homeless. Instead of accepting the small settlements offered by the coal company’s insurance offices, a few hundred of the survivors banded together to sue. This is the story of their triumph over incredible odds and corporate irresponsibility, as told by Gerald M. Stern, who as a young lawyer and took on the case and won.”
7. The Sound of Water by Sanjay Bahadur
“Longlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Prize, a gripping debut novel about an Indian mining disaster as seen from the perspectives of the miners, their families, and the officials charged with rescuing them.”
8. Hazard by Gardiner Harris
“When a block of coal the size of a stove shoots out of the wall, miner Amos Blevins barely has time to react before the entire area is flooded with water. He frantically tries to rescue his crewmates, but in an underground space that is pitch black and too cramped to even stand up, he can barely crawl to safety himself. Inspector Will Murphy is sent to investigate, ordered by his superiors to clear things up quickly so the mine can reopen. After all, if the mine closes, then miners lose their jobs, and so do mine inspectors.”
9. Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam Jr.
“With the grace of a natural storyteller, NASA engineer Homer Hickam paints a warm, vivid portrait of the harsh West Virginia mining town of his youth, evoking a time of innocence and promise, when anything was possible, even in a company town that swallowed its men alive.”
10. Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died by Rebecca Macfie
“Based on extensive research and more than a hundred interviews, this powerful book provides chilling insights into the causes of the tragedy and puts a human face on the people who suffered.”
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