Redemption Mountain is a work of fiction. The characters, their thoughts, actions and words, are entirely the creation of the author and any resemblances found to an actual person, are coincidental and inadvertent. The corporations named in the story are also fictitious.

All of the places referred to in the story are real with the notable exceptions of the town of Red Bone, Redemption Mountain, and Hickory Hills Country Club. McDowell County is in fact the southernmost county in West Virginia, located in the heart of the Pocahontas Coal Field that powered America’s industrial revolution and fueled the war machines that saved the world twice in the last century. Mamaroneck, New York, is a diverse city of seventeen thousand in Westchester County. New York, NY remains the world’s greatest city, and Warren, Vermont, is very close to Heaven.

The historical events referred to in the story are real, well documented from numerous sources and are described as factually and faithfully as I can determine. Hank’s personal account of the Buffalo Creek Disaster of 1972, borrows heavily from an enthralling and heartbreaking series of stories (largely the work of reporter Ken Ward Jr. mentioned below) published in the Charleston Gazette on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in 1997. The December 6, 1907 coal mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia, claimed the lives of 362 miners and remains this country’s worst coal mine disaster. On November 20, 1968, a fire in the Consol Mine in Farmington, West Virginia killed 78 miners. The original New York production of Les Miserables closed on March 15, 2003, after a 16-year run on Broadway.

Hank’s discourses on the West Virginia Mine Wars, the Matewan Massacre and the subsequent fates of Sheriff Sid Hatfield and his deputy Ed Chambers, are drawn from numerous sources including: American Heritage Magazine, August 1974, “The West Virginia Mine Wars” by Cabell Phillips; “The Battle of Matewan”, History/battle2.htm; “West Virginia’s Mine Wars”, West Virginia Division of Culture and History,; and “Matewan”, United Mine Workers of America History, history/matewan.shtml.

For an understanding of the economics of the coal mining industry as well as what life was like in the coal fields during the last century, I am indebted to a wonderfully written book, Coal. A Memoir And Critique, by Duane Lockard (University Press of Virginia, 1998).

Throughout the writing of Redemption Mountain, I found myself continually referring back to and rereading parts of a wonderful book entitled, The Heritage of McDowell County, West Virginia, 1858-1999, published by The McDowell County Historical Society and edited by Geneva Steele, Sandra Long and Tom Hatcher. I came by this book through a chance online meeting of my friend Geneva Steele of Bradshaw, West Virginia, many years ago when I was just starting the book. She has supplied many helpful comments on the story over the years and I am in her debt.

The articles, columns and blogs of Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette have educated me on the history of coal mining in West Virginia, coal mining safety and the attendant government bureaus and agencies, and the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia as well as the machinations of local, state and federal politicians who enable it to continue. Mr. Ward is an exhaustive reporter and a prolific, lucid writer whose style made every story enlightening, every paragraph a pleasure to read.

A great many people contributed to the publishing of Redemption Mountain. My agent, Loretta Barrett was a rock and a great friend throughout a long process. My editors, Jill Lamar and Phyllis Grann, deserve medals for patience, as does Joanna Levine at Holt. My friend Carol Churchill reviewed the entire, massive first manuscript many years ago and provided invaluable help and encouragement.

I am fortunate to have a number of good friends who took a great interest in the book and provided an incredible level of support and encouragement. They can’t know how much their kinds words and recommendations meant to me. I need to thank a few:  Bob Page, Rich Dowling, Mike Aliberti, Pam Aronson, Kevin and Mary McCullough, Maryann and Fernando Goulart, John Skar, Dave Daniels, Joanne Carlisle, Debbie and Andy Okun, Donna Goff, Rolly Ciocca, Jay Hamilton, Gale Mathes, Korby Clark, Chris and Sue Mastroianni, Sheila Doiron, and of course, Eddie Sheehan.

Gerry FitzGerald

February 13, 2013