More than a novel—an education about what will happen to the U.S. without labor unions and justice

Grisham’s “Gray Mountain” offers an education of what the United States will become without labor unions and justice.

I’ve read most if not all of John Grisham’s work, and I was not disappointed by Gray Mountain. What I really appreciated was the door he opened into a world I had no idea still existed in the United States.

If you think that working people are safe from corporate greed, you should read this book and pay attention.

While the characters and the plot carry the story along, the actual history of Appalachia and Big Coal threads its way through the novel like blood flowing through the Carotid Artery from the heart to our brain but in this case, the blood is coal and it is clogging the artery contributing to brutal poverty and causing much suffering and early deaths. I think Grisham is evolving into a muckraking author-journalist in the best tradition of the golden age of journalism.

The coal industry is plundering Appalachia. It is a tragedy what the greedy, cold blooded corporate industry is doing to both the environment and the people who live there.  The results are hundreds of mountains decapitated, forests obliterated, water polluted, wildlife displaced and people made sick with cancer, lung and heart disease, and Grisham doesn’t  spare us from any of these inhuman corporate crimes.

What has the coal industry done and what is it still doing? Let me summarize—Appalachia, a region of extraordinary beauty and natural diversity, is under attack. Mountaintop removal is strip mining on steroids—a radically destructive form of surface mining whereby coal companies bulldoze the forest, decapitate the peaks with explosives, push the shattered rubble into adjacent valleys, and destroy the ecologically crucial headwater streams that had been there before.

If you read this book—or listen to it like I did—Grisham will take you on a dangerous and dramatic ride with Samantha Kofer, a 29-year-old graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Law who was earning $180,000 a year before the story takes her from the world of big law to a non-profit, legal aid clinic in the heart of coal country.

The story Grisham paints makes clear that the labor unions that once offered some protection for the workers in this industry were broken years earlier by the crooked, brutal, greedy coal companies, and what makes this story even more tragic is that in the real world where we live, corporations and billionaire oligarchs are waging endless war against labor unions all across America to do the same thing that the coal industry did several decades ago. If you want to discover what the U.S. will look like for workers without labor unions, learn with Samantha Kofer.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Runner Up
2015 Florida Book Festival


Honorable Mentions
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography at 2014 Southern California Book Festival

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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12 responses to “More than a novel—an education about what will happen to the U.S. without labor unions and justice”

  1. speaking of great muck, Upton Sinclair wrote about education too…worms in the apple back then too.   The Goose-step: A Study of American Education, 1923 and The Goslings: A Study of the Amrrican Schools, 1924

    From: Lloyd Lofthouse To: Sent: Thursday, January 8, 2015 2:28 PM Subject: [New post] More than a novel—an education about what will happen to the U.S. without labor unions and justice #yiv4723263458 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4723263458 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4723263458 a.yiv4723263458primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4723263458 a.yiv4723263458primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4723263458 a.yiv4723263458primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4723263458 a.yiv4723263458primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4723263458 | Lloyd Lofthouse posted: “Grisham’s “Gray Mountain” offers an education of what the United States will become without labor unions and justice.I’ve read most if not all of John Grisham’s work, and I was not disappointed by Gray Mountain. What I really appreciated was the door ” | |

    1. Upton Sinclair also wrote “The Jungle”, first published in 1905 about the meat packing industry. A review by Jack London called it, “the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of wage slavery.” As I read that, I thought of the Walton family and Walmart in addition to most of the fast food industry. There is no need to pay poverty wages.

      Both Costco and the In-N-Out fast food chain proves that livable wages can be paid to employees and the corporation will still make a profit and survive—-but try telling that to the Waltons or any of the other oligarchs who hate labor unions, government watchdogs and journalists who write about the crimes of these billionaires and their corporations.

      Costco has 186,000 employes and in 2014 it had revenue of $112.64 billion, and in the US, eighty-five percent of Costco’s workers have health insurance, compared with less than fifty percent at Walmart and Target.

      In-N-Out Burger (Since 1948—McDonalds started in 1955) is not franchised. The current owner, Lynsi Lavelle Snyder, is the 3rd generation of the same family that opened the first location. Today, the chain has 300 locations (mostly in California and Arizona) with an estimated $625 million in revenue in 2012. In-N-Out starts its new employees at a minimum of $10.50 an hour with part-time and full time benefits that include paid vacations, free meals and 401k plans. And this hasn’t stopped the current owner from still being worth $1.1 Billion. In addition, all of their management is promoted from their hourly workers.

      1. Lloyd, I’m a lit major. If I know about Goose Step and Goslings, which few do, I’d know about The Jungle.

        I blogged about it here. There’s a link in the post to the book

        Here’s one to Goslings;view=1up;seq=6

      2. LOL

        Before I wrote my reply, I used Google to find out more about the books he wrote, and then I got carried away with Costco, In-N-Out, the Waltons and McDonalds. I don’t think I’ve ever read “The Jungle”. Of all the 20th Century American Authors I studied from a list the university gave me to earn my MFA, his work wasn’t on it.

  2. Interesting that Grisham also has written about this. Baldacci actually comes from Appalachia and wrote a memoir about the rape of the area … “Wish You Well” is very good. I’ve been intending to read gray mountain too, so it will be next on my list on Audible this month. Grisham and Baldacci share a lot of background, including both being lawyers, both coming from extremely poor roots in the deep south. Interesting.

    1. I’ve read several books by Baldacci—The Camel Club Series

      1. Wish You Well is entirely different. You’d never know it’s the same writer. In a good way.

      2. I’ll check the local Half Price Books and see if they have a audio CD of the book. Thanks.

      3. It’s available on Kindle and paper too. I just prefer audio these days. My eyes and I have made a deal. They will keep letting me write and I will not force them to focus on print on a small page.

      4. For me, when I’m not driving, eating, showering, sleeping and walking, I’m writing. Audio books work great for driving when my ears are free.

      5. I started listening when I was commuting. It turned wasted time into reading time. I love audiobooks 🙂

      6. Me too. For about ten years I had an hour drive to work and a hour drive home. I checked out books on tape from the local library back then. Now I throw my money away buying CDs.

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