The roar of the mob rolled down the street and back again. “We’ll not stand it! We’ll not stand it!” Men shook their clenched fists, women shrieked, even children shouted curses. “We’ll fight them! We’ll slave no more for them!”
And Mary found a magic word. “We’ll have a union!” she shouted. “We’ll get together and stay together! If they refuse us our rights, we’ll know what to answer–we’ll have a strike!”
There was a roar like the crashing of thunder in the mountains. Yes, Mary had found the word! For many years it had not been spoken aloud in North Valley, but now it ran like a flash of gunpowder through the throng. “Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike!” It seemed as if they would never have enough of it. Not all of them had understood Mary’s speech, but they knew this word, “Strike!” They translated and proclaimed it in Polish and Bohemian and Italian and Greek. “Strike! Strike! Strike!”
Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), “a self-described socialist propagandist,” was an American writer who wrote nearly one hundred books and other works in several genres. Sinclair’s work was well known and popular in the first half of the twentieth century due to his desire to expose what he referred to as “the ‘wage slavery’ of workers,” acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle (1906), which exposed labor and sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry, causing a public uproar that contributed to the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.
After hearing of the deadly Colorado Fuel and Iron strike, also known as the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914, and identified as “one of the most grueling, longlasting industrial conflicts in the history of the United States,” Sinclair focused his attention on the coal mining industry with King Coal, resulting in what Sinclair scholar R.N. Mookerjee refers to as a “very successful and effective fusion of journalistic excellence and creative imagination,” and believes it “is undoubtedly one of Sinclair’s more artistic achievements.”
“Too much of what Sinclair writes about remains a problem in mines today.”
He also chose to hyphenate many coal mining terms that are not, in fact, hyphenated, even when compared to literature from the time, so we edited those words as well. That’s how a “check-weighman” becomes a “checkweighman” and a “pit-boss” becomes a “pit boss.”
And since we were editing the text anyway, we chose to jettison Sinclair’s use of British spellings in favor of their American counterparts.
Had we realized beforehand the amount of work involved to make all of those changes, we most certainly never would have begun. However, now that it’s finished, we’re most confident that our version of King Coal is easier on the eyes and a far more enjoyable read as a result.
Indeed, we think Hal sung it best: Hurrah for you and me!
“Better than The Jungle, progresses swiftly, with many dramatic situations and a constant flow of incidents.” –The New York Times
“King Coal is perhaps as fine a labor novel as could be written . . . a brilliant success.” –Floyd Dell, Upton Sinclair: A Study in Social Protest
“Undoubtedly impressive, a masterly delineation.” –New York Tribune
“Nothing so brilliant and thrilling for many a day.” –Chicago News
“The technology in the novel moves with the muscles of men and mules. But aside from changes in technology, too much of what Sinclair writes about remains a problem in mines today.” –Susan Williams, Charleston Gazette-Mail
“It is seldom that truths concerning conditions in coal mines are brought to light in so readable and popular a form as Mr. Sinclair’s novel.” –Hazel Wilkinson, Social Thought in American Fiction
“I wish that every word of it could be burned deep into the heart of every American.” –Adolph Germer
“Sinclair’s achievement was impressive . . . He saw through the lies of his era and exposed a world long hidden from view. He showed compassion for the weak and the poor, the powerless and the despised . . . He fueled anger at injustice.” –Eric Schlosser
“When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to [Sinclair’s] novels.” –George Bernard Shaw
Published: September 16, 2018
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 1.01 pounds
Cover: Matte Finish
Interior: Black & White on Cream Paper
Pages: 358 (+2 POD)
Annotations: 79 Footnotes
September 16, 2018