This grabbed my attention in a second hand book store. The fact that reviews in the back-cover blurb namecheck Steinbeck and Dickens were encouraging. I was surprised, then, that there's little online information of Davis Grubb, more famous for writing 'The Night of the Hunter,' the original film of which scared me to bits as a young boy.
There is no doubt that this is a good book. Early on I was in rapture when reading it. It ploughs the same furrows as the itinerant families trying to escape the Depression in 'The Grapes of Wrath,' but focuses on the lot of the at-best intimidated, at-worst murdered, miners striking for better conditions. It quickly becomes a tale of revenge and this took me a step away from an opinion of it as literary fiction and a step towards pulp. The scenes between Jack and Jessie are, according to the blurb, the tour de force of the whole book but I found them overlong. The pages in which the taboo of cunnilingus is detailed and discussed made me yawn in 2013. I'm sure Erica Jong did it better. I also found the matriarchal character of Old Mother Dunne in the story to be over-egged, although it was nice to see such a figure being given power over the community of men she considers to be so foolish.
I most enjoyed the (admittedly rather Dickensian) detail of the lives of the miner families and particularly the intricacies of the long hours under the coal face. The dark and desperate hearts of the strike-breakers (inevitably in the pay of the mine owners) were also explored with great aplomb. A good book that with the omission of twenty pages would be great.