Books: Fiction

Fire in the Hole!

Book - Fiction. By Mary Cronk Farrell. 2004. 176 pages. Based on the true story of a silver miners' strike in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the book shows the desperate conditions of miners' lives and how the striking miners were detained illegally in a late 19th century version of Guantanamo.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
Themes: Labor, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity

fireintheholeIn the late 1800s in an Idaho mining town, a young boy named Mick struggles between his father’s desire for him to be a miner and his own interest in becoming a journalist—a tale set in the context of the conflict between the miners and the mine owners.

This well-written story, based on a nearly unbelievable incident in U.S. history, shows just how desperate the conditions were for mining families, how the company unfairly detained citizens for very long periods of time (a miners’ Guantanamo), and how Black troops were sent by the federal government to restore order.

While Mick’s dad is detained, his mother dies in childbirth, and Mick has to work as a scab to feed his siblings.


Federal troop encampment in Wallace, Idaho in 1892.

Federal troop encampment in Wallace, Idaho in 1892.

The book might have done a better job clarifying the role and importance of the unions, but it is a welcome addition to the small but growing collection of historical fiction that addresses issues of working-class struggles and unions.

Other such books that upper elementary and middle school teachers will find useful include Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson and Dragon’s Gate by Lawrence Yep.

ISBN: 9780618446346 | Published by Clarion Books | Out of print.