Book review: ‘A Terrible Unrest,’ by Philip Duke

by Roger Cottingham

“A Terrible Unrest,” by Philip DukeI love a good dose of history – especially American history. Whether it’s nonfiction or historical fiction, I love learning about things of the past that I didn’t know before. Local author Philip Duke’s novel, “A Terrible Unrest,” definitely filled that bill for me.

Before I dove into the book, I had heard of the Ludlow Massacre and had a vague knowledge of the Colorado Coalfield War that led up to that event. “A Terrible Unrest” did a good job establishing a timeline for me, as well as building literary rock cairns that guided me through the escalation of tension to the massacre.

As with any good historical fiction, Duke has done well in fleshing out the time and place using Spiro Andrakis and his family to tell not only the story of the union vs. coal mine owners, but a story of the immigrant experience in mining communities of the early 1900s. Through Spiro, and others, I developed a feeling of understanding (rather than just general knowledge) of the difficult circumstances these people experienced as the union tried to establish a strong presence in the coalfields.

“A Terrible Unrest” succeeds on several levels. It gives you a sense of time and place. It offers views from all sides of the situation and possible, yet credible, views of the mindsets of the decision makers. And, ultimately, is sends you riding on top of the landslide that bottoms out in the Ludlow Massacre.

A good read, for sure, and exactly what I want in my historical fiction.

— Roger Cottingham


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