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Hazard by Gardiner Harris

Hazard by Gardiner Harris feeds right into my fears of being deep underground-I don’t know how coal miners do it!  Hazard takes it name from the town of Hazard in eastern Applachian Kentucky and is indeed about coal mining (along with crime and corruption).  Coal mining is no longer unionized here and companies start taking shortcuts that sacrifice safety.  But aren’t there governement inspectors to make sure the mine is safe for the workers?  Certainly!  However, when the companies being inspected also give a lot of money to the government inspectors for their office kitty and holiday bonuses, how serious can those inspections be?  Inspector Will Murphy is not exactly corrupt but drinks a lot and doesn’t pursue his work with much zeal.  The other main character is Amos Blevins, a coal miner who rescues two other miners in an mining accident that kills nine workers (in a tunnel not even big enough to stand up in fifteen stories underground).  Is Amos the toast of the town?  No, he’s on the run because his religion will not allow him to lie when he is interviewed about conditions in the mine.  Will, meanwhile, is assigned to investigate the accident even though his family owns the mine company.  This book is rich in details about coal mining and is extremely interesting.  It makes you wonder about recent disasters (not only in coal mining, but the BP oil spill, etc) and whether or not the people and federal agencies that we are trusting and paying to make sure everything is done as it’s supposed to be are really doing their jobs.

Stacy W.

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