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Thunder on the Mountain Hardcover – March, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From 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.AKaren Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Forge; 1st edition (March 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312864949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312864941
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,233,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

USA Today-bestselling author David Poyer's thirty-plus books include THE DEAD OF WINTER, WINTER IN THE HEART, AS THE WOLF LOVES WINTER, and THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN, literary novels set in Pennsylvania; THE MED, THE GULF, THE CIRCLE, THE PASSAGE, TOMAHAWK, CHINA SEA, BLACK STORM, THE COMMAND, THE THREAT, KOREA STRAIT, THE WEAPON, THE CRISIS, THE TOWERS, and THE CRUISER, best-selling novels of the modern military; WHITE CONTINENT, STAR SEED, THE SHILOH PROJECT, and STEPFATHER BANK, science fiction; and FIRE ON THE WATERS, A COUNTRY OF OUR OWN, and THAT ANVIL OF OUR SOULS, historical novels about the Civil War. His work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, and Italian, and rights have been sold for films, audiobooks, Nook, Kindle, etc. Poyer has taught or lectured at University of Pittsburgh, Cape May Institute, ODU, Joint Forces Staff College, UNF, The New College, Elizabethtown College, and other institutions, and been a guest on PBS's "Writer to Writer." He was a founding editor of THE NEW VIRGINIA REVIEW and is currently a fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Poyer has written his best novel to date, and I've read almost all of the twenty published. Set in the Northwestern Pennsylvania oil fields during the great labor conflicts of the Thirties, it details the struggles of the working man as well as the dilemmas facing management during the development of organized labor. The characters are finely drawn and the action and the suspense continues throughout the novel. I knew labor leaders from that era and lived through that period. The mood of this novel is absoluetly authentic. The character of Doris Golden stepped right out of that movement. Red Halvorsen, the hero, is a young Tom Joad who gradually understands corporate coruption and class struggle, and has to choose sides. Both male and female characters are gritty, believable, and alive. An excellent read for all ages, will take you far into the night before you can put it down. Daily life in the Thirties comes alive here. Not simply history, not stuffed with technical material or trivia at the expense of character, but loaded with interpersonal struggles, a fast-moving plot, and even a touch of romance. A first-class novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon R. Schlueter on November 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I think an author has done his job when I want to enter the pages of his novel and talk to his characters. That's a testament to the complexity and realism of the personas you meet in this book, and to the vividness and high stakes of the struggles they face. Aside from that, no writer I know has a keener eye than Mr. Poyer for details that create verisimilitude. I was not alive in 1936, I have never been to Pennsylvania, never been to an oil field or oil refinery, and never participated in a hard-fought wildcat strike. But after reading this book I felt like I had been there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James on January 9, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Years after reading this novel, I vividly remember many scenes from it. A gifted amateur boxer fights a real pro for high stakes. Poyer simultaneously describes the surroundings, the fighters, the action, and the strategy at a breakneck pace, but with crystal clarity. None of the fights I've seen in the real world were as vivid to me as the one I read about in this book. This novel puts you in the time and place and surrounds you with realistic characters. The characters do NOT act, talk, and think like modern Americans - they are people of their period in history, and again, all the details feel right. You sympathize with the characters on both sides of the conflict (with one exception, a somewhat two-dimensional villain). Excellent.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Thunder on the Mountain by David Poyer is an incredible story that seems entirely true. It focuses on oil drilling in Pennsylvania during a time when the labor union movement was still in its infancy, and violence was prevalently used to break strikes or break striker's spirits. Poyer masterfully captures a fully realized world of bosses, workers, illegal boxing matches, riots, sabotage, poverty, and corruption. Characters tear themselves from the page, demanding to be heard, and I couldn't help but feel every bit of anguish and betrayal they endured.
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By Dave Lindesmith on February 25, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
North central PA and their characters were a great read. A corporate creator being fought by early greenies, A combination for a moving story.
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