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Anywhere But Schuylkill, by Mike Dunn
reviewed by William P. Meyers

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Anywhere But Schuylkill
author: Michael Dunn
publisher: Historium Press
year of publication: 2023
reviewed date October 22, 2023
format: ebook, paperback

When the Civil War ended in the United States, it did not mean the end of human misery. The industrial revolution had pitched into high gear. The revolution was powered by coal. But the coal was mined by human labor, the work was dangerous, and the pay was scant. As the 1870's got underway Mike Doyle was thirteen years old and working hard, hand sorting the coal at a mine in Pennsylvania. This novel is action-packed from the very start, when a fire in the mine kills Mike's father deep in the mine. Mike then moves with his remaining family to stay with relatives, also a miner family, in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania.

In his new home Mike is lucky enough to be placed in a better job, caring for the mules that move the coal from the mine to market. He gets involved in the labor movement, which is fragmented by ethnic groups, and with some men who control local saloons and mini crime syndicates. Showing the difficulty of the lives of the miners, the corruption of the industrial system, and and the difficulty of getting fair wages through a union movement, there is always action, never lecturing the reader. This is also a story of families, friendship, and personal pain, set in an American era that generated ideas for reforms that mostly would not be implemented until the New Deal during the Great Depression.

This is a great labor novel, as good as any I have read. Given the current revival of pro-union sentiments, from Starbucks to Amazon to General Motors, I hope it will be widely read.

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