Thunder on the Mountain

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Thunder on the Mountain is the fourth in a series of novels set in Hemlock County, Pennsylvania. This gripping tale, set in the winter of 1936, explores the intricacies of the labor struggles during the Depression. David Poyer powerfully depicts the times through various perspectives, with chilling clarity and realism.

The characters are vivid and precise. Their raw emotions are exposed. W.T. Halvorsen is a young oil worker at Daniel Thunner’s Thunder Oil Company, drawn into a violent labor dispute. Thunner’s motives are suspect. Safety concerns are ignored. When five men are killed in a refinery fire, the workers seek to unionize. Deceptions then begin in earnest. Enter Doris Golden, a strike organizer. Too late, W.T. learns of her Communist ties, and her ulterior motives. No one can be trusted. Halvorsen soon realizes that he has been but a pawn in a deadly game.

As the strike progresses, the characters evolve. Dan Thunner, once considered a fair employer, hardens. His only concern becomes the survival of his company at all cost. Thunner never realizes what he has lost in winning this battle. The workers clearly understand the price, yet they carry on amid danger and death.

In the end it seems Thunner has won, but the story does not end there. W.T. heads westward to begin anew, with a sense of hope that human decency will one day triumph over corporate profit, and the workers will prevail.