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2017 Books on Appalachia

By Stan Bumgardner

Legendary West Virginia statesman Ken Hechler (1914-2016) is the subject of a new biography by author and sculptor Carter Taylor Seaton. The Rebel in the Red Jeep traces Hechler’s life from Roslyn, New York, to the Bridge at Remagen, to the Truman White House, to West Virginia. In the Mountain State, Hechler forged a storied path as one of the state’s last liberal congressmen. His legacy includes the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which provided the most sweeping changes in miner health and safety in history. Seaton’s 427-page biography is based on newspaper articles, research collections, and her own correspondence with many of the people who knew and worked with Hechler.

Also from WVU Press is a new work from Ronald L. Lewis, a professor of history emeritus at the school. In 1897, small landowner Robert Eastham killed timber magnate Frank Thompson in Tucker County, leading to a sensational trial. Lewis’s book, The Industrialist and the Mountaineer, uses this largely forgotten episode as a window into contests over political, environmental, and legal change in turn-of-the-century Appalachia. In particular, he shows how local communities guarded traditional relationships to natural resources.

 The Industrialist and the Mountaineer is available from WVU Press for 26.99 in paperback. An eBook is also available.

Mountain Tales & River Stories features 19 short stories—all but one set in West Virginia—that cover a wide gamut of genres: historical, dark, supernatural, and humor. Storyteller and songwriter Pete Kosky weaves his tales with everything from rural traditions, such as wood hicks and fiddle tunes, to speakeasies and roller derby girls.

The 200-page Mountain Tales & River Stories is available for $15.00 from Mountain State Press, P.O. Box 1281, Scott Depot, WV 25560.

Candace Nelson has written the first comprehensive history of our state’s unofficial food. The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll,with a foreword by state folklorist Emily Hilliard, traces the history of this Appalachian delicacy from Fairmont’s Country Club Bakery to modern adaptations, which please some palates but push the envelope too far for some. Nelson has interviewed chefs and other foodies about their pepperoni memories and delves into the science of what makes a pepperoni roll a pepperoni roll.

Beautifully illustrated, this 144-page paperback is available from WVU Press and online for $29.99.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.