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VINE VOICEon January 31, 2018
To say that Ivan Doig was a great “Western” writer, as is often done, seems a slight to me. He was, in fact, a great writer who lived and wrote in the West but he was much more. His work is literary genius regardless of the genre and if there’s doubt, read “Work Song.”

Doig tells us of an itinerate man arriving in Butte, Montana, needing a job. Morrie Morgan has no money, his belongings are lost, and he has nothing but his initiative to exist on. First he finds work at a mortuary as “crier” at the numerous wakes that are held in a town known for the number of people who die there. Then he goes to work at a library under the directions of an eccentric bibliophile who stocks the library shelves with his own collection of valuable old books.

But wait, that’s only part of the story. Butte is the copper mining capital of the world and, in 1919, the world of mining featured greedy owners, ferocious labor organizers, and beat down miners who exhibited their pluck with determination, neither buying the guile of the men in the copper towers, nor accepting the equally disingenuous bluster of the labor goons. Morgan falls into the camp of the miners, trying to help find a justice that will smooth their hardscrabble lives.

Doig, who died in 2015, espoused the belief that quality writers can not only ground their work in a specific area and language, but can, at the same time, write about life. That’s why his sixteen books all resonate with everyday happenings in the West where he lived, while depicting the broader picture of life in general with such clarity. Using Morris as his narrator to bridge the gap between an unbending mining company, outside agitators, and victimized miners is a brilliant act of characterization that reflects his conviction.

Characterization is the strong point of the novel, although Doig didn’t overload the reader with a cast of thousands. He certainly had them available but, instead, we meet a couple of retired plucky miners, a skinny waif, a pair of company goons, an attractive landlady, the peculiar boss at a remarkable library, and a former student who is now a sage union leader. These few brilliantly depicted characters were all Doig needed to get his story told. He never even brought a company executive from the copper tower for us to meet.

Doig will be missed but his work lives on. Just pick any book he has written and settle in for an insightful and enjoyable read. His legacy will exist because of his formable talent and skill as a marvelous storyteller.

Schuyler T Wallace
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on November 18, 2015
I have read several of Doig's books at this point in time...8 being several...and generally have enjoyed them all. I DID start my career with him by reading The Blockbuster: The Bartender's Tale. That book (to me) was so so good that I expected all the rest to be just as good and have had to adjust my expectations for the reading of his other works.. So far none have come close to the Tale Perhaps I simply have not found the other "Greats" or maybe The Bartender's Tale was His Best.

Now that I am working on Book Number 9: Work Song I have more items by which to judge his works He may/may not be The Mark Twain of Montana, but he certainly has done an extremely good job of putting the Western portion of that State on the map for me and has begun to fill in the blanks on other areas also.

Work Song is set in Copper, as it were, and definitively paints the portrait of a handful of its' characters while providing wide brushstrokes of other to fill in the background of others.

1. It is moderate in le length
2. It is written in First Person and is narrated by Morrie Morgan, who is working as an assisstant to the Head Librarian of the Butte, Montana Municipal Library Samuel Simmons.
3. This book is park of a three part series. (I did not know this when I ordered the book or I would have ordered the threesome...or would have, at least, read them in order)
4. T find that this novel talks a lot about action; however, very little is produced. A great lot of talking does occur....for instance, the copper miners of the City, are made up of many sub-groups,....The Finns; The Irish; The Italians; The Swedes; The Croats etc. etc. etc. and bubbling between and amongst those factions there is portrayed to be some less than convivial mixes of appreciation for one another's capabilities.
Add a simple layer of management into these workers and downright hostilities are voiced. But the simple showing of a pair of Brass Knuckles keep the group under control. Throw in a Miner's Union Representative and the disparate groups do not break into rowdy groups of Hooligans with each one attempting to Rip Off/Out his Own Pound Of Flesh. Instead, these work roughened types fold their large knuckled hands piously in their laps, having squired thir brides into the Library's meeting room where they discuss singing as a diversionary method by which to settle their day to day differences. Even I, little Librarian that I was, find this to be Quite A Stretch!!!
4. The characters are clearly delineated and most sound like ideal dinner companions. Perhaps that is because we meet many of them dining together at the Purity Cafeteria or at Grace Faraday's dinner table while visiting her Boarding House. Beautiful Scenes were described while we followed various doing which occurred in celebration of Miners day. The parade must have stretched for miles and miles. The costumes were more elaborate than those seen on Macy,s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There was plenty of time, tons of characters, and enough money had gone into the production. It was the perfect set up for a world resounding clash between miners, and management, between children and adults, between the haves and have-nots....just about any type of clas you could imagine. So large was the list of "Paraders" that I was astounded that any "Viewers" existed. Well, of couse there was our leading man from the library and the object of his affection, Crace, but they had World Class viewing seats since Morrie was able to use his own Personal Library Key which allowed them The Best Seat In The House from which to view the spectacle. And it also allowed them to heard someone with an awesome set of Vocal Cords who was able to overcome all ambient chatter made ty hundreds of human Parade participants, the ooh,s ans aah,s of the impressed viewers, the screams, squeals, whining and crying of attendent children. On top of all that verbal mania, factor in the of horses as ever a parade is a showcase for these beauties plus there are putt putts of Model T,s for dignitaries. Parades, in general, are noisy affairs and though the Drum Major for the latgest band, the one owned by Anaconda Copper, had silenced his player, one can easily imagine that the noise level overall was still at a Full Roar, when the author gives us a scene with limited sound at its middle, so that truly All Hell Could Have Broken Loose...mischief makers could have taken over by cracking miner,s knees with clubs, could have sent horses into pounding fear or fury by simply swatting thir rumps iand they would haverupted in their confined territories so mobbed with strangers. Consider the Pandemonium that fleeing hores and crippled miners would have lent to the Circus Animals and the carnies in tow. Firecrackers could have log jammed the entire could have ruined the parade and the egos involved no matter whose side you were on: that of Anaconda,s or that of the miners.

But no. What did occur in this poorly manufactured scene of some silence? A Song burst forth. A song ridiculing Anaconda and belittling its cruel treatment of miners.While reading this scenario, my mind skipped to an Aside: Whose voice could transcend during this carnival like festivity? The voice was described as being sweet and clear.Only those who sing around the throne of God could overcome the noise generated by a parade and project loudly enough that all could hear (even our charmed couple loced behind the pillard, hewn stone walls with its hewn Mezzanine and beraftered 12 foot entry produce the clarion note that sought the attenion of those parade attendees, participants and all.

And so to fight a war, we find a song. Hmmm!

Though many opportunities for rip-roarin' action were passed by; though there were two sets of lovebirds involved, one engaged couple did snatch a kiss, whle the other moved from one date to a marriage proposal
while sharing only a glance at a milky white shoulder. The head Librarian was known to be a Lyncnin' man. plenty of opportunity for some hot headed scenes of violence. This was all explained away by way of a heart to heart talk between "Morrie" and Samuel. "Morrie" Morgan is a man with a past....lots of chances for Mystery notes here. Well...No...Not just now

The reader of this review, should someone wade through all this verbiage, probably wonders why I gave this novel FOUR STARS since I seem to feel it failed to make a good point in each thematic area which I persued.. That does seem to be a bit of a stre. After I mulled that question over myself, I finally decided that THIS IS A WOMAN'S NOVEL and certainly not a wildly passionate one.

But I have read other works by this author. I have met "morrie" Morgan in two other works: One is Sweet Thunder which follows this book and the other was Whistling Season in which Morrie was 10 years younger and first on the lam.

Sometimes Doig puts out a book which is spellbinding: Bartender's Tale and Whistling Season and occasionally he puts out one that is a Good Read. This one is a good Read.
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on February 1, 2016
Just finished "Work Song", right after reading the wonderful "The Whistling Season". I was kind of dismayed. Morrie was such a terrific, intriguing, unusual character in "The Whistling Season". I'm surprised that Doig turned him into such a straight-ahead vanilla narrator in this book. Perhaps an "odd ball" HAS to be viewed in the third person to make his quirkiness come to life. (And why is he always flinching, in fear for his life, in the latter half of the book? The man who faced down the ogre Brose Turley in "The Whistling Season" wouldn't be such a nervous nelly!)

"Work Song" just didn't have the depth and intensity of its predecessor, and it kind of messed up a wonderful character.

(Don't miss Doig's finest, "English Creek" and "Dancing at the Rascal Fair"!)
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on April 8, 2015
This work can be criticized as light, frothy, and improbable fantasy, but, at least the fantasy is more realistic than the run of modern sensational novels that have the hero (in the name of justice!) committing a dozen murders per week, numerous explicit sexual encounters, or autos flying 30 feet high through the air and exploding upon impact (crashing cars in books and movies always explode - in reality, not that many do!). In my view the last thoughtful novels were written in Victoria's last years, but Doig at least gives a distracting pleasure to one's day. (I should would like to know how Morrie knew about the Black Sox scandal - and bet property, not his own, on the Series).
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on April 6, 2015
I recently "fell" onto Ivan Doig a couple years ago. I've enjoyed the books of his I've had a chance to read and this is one of them. Though not as outstanding in my estimation, as "The Whistling Season", this is the sequel to it, and it is kind of fun to see some closure on characters that had to "disappear." If you enjoy being outside, and poetic writing on that and wonderful characters-you will enjoy these two books.
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on March 30, 2011
Ivan Doig is back. After his disappointing performance in "The 11th Man," he has returned to the world he created in "The Whistling Season." It's 10 years later, and while you never really know what he did during those 10 years, the book begins with his arrival in Butte, Montana in 1919. Wobblies, Union men, the ubiquitous Anaconda Company, and its assorted thugs, are all part of the scene. The Irish, Welsh, Italians, Cornish and assorted other groups are all represented, in a tumultuous mix that Doig somehow manages to keep in line. The plot is well-written, although I had hoped to hear more about Rose and Paul Milliron than just a brief mention by RabRab. If this book has a downside, it's that you may not appreciate all its nuances if you are not familiar with Butte. Even now, over 90 years later, the echoes of the rawkous period following the First World War still reverberate in that battered, butte-ugly city. I highly recommend this book, along with its predecessor, "The Whistling Season."
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on September 23, 2013
I probably would have given this book three stars if I had to wait for "Sweet Thunder" to come out. The story builds up these great characters and plot lines for them, but then ends with no real resolutions. Yes, you are supposed to infer a few things but I would have liked to have at least a little more closure at the end.

My advice would be to buy both "Work Song" and "Sweet Thunder," as the latter picks up where the first leaves off.

I still really liked the story. It is a quick read and still filled with all the Morrie intellect you loved in "The Whistling Season."
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on August 4, 2012
A short review is all I am going to give you so we all can get on with reading wonderful books. I am not a person who usually gets hooked on one author and reads everything they produce, but Ivan Doig is the exception. As I've said before, Doig's incredible talent lies in the restraint he uses to convey a point or humor without useless dialogue or discourse. Doig's voice is rich and intelligent in Work Song, which takes the reader directly into the setting of this mining town and its characters. Work Song is another richly written story that includes intrigue, love, conflict and resolution. A sigh of satisfaction exhales slowly from me after finishing Work Song. Highly recommended for Doig's story telling talents.
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on February 7, 2018
Just as interesting and enjoyable as 'The Whistling Season' although quite different in storyline. There were a few dry spots, but I'll definitely get started on the next book, "Sweet Thunder."
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on June 27, 2014
This sequel to Mr. Doig's masterful "The Whistling Season" is less complex in character and plot than "Season"; even so Doig ably dots the landscape of copper-mining Butte post World War I with colorful characters and interesting anecdotes. "Work Song" illuminates how the threatening urban atmospere of personal and institutional destructiveness hanging over Butte circa 1920 was but one short step from the pervasive violence endemic to frontier Montana. Worth reading just not Doig at his best.
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