One of the fun parts of writing a book is the research, at least for me. But maybe that's because I'm a professional researcher in real life. For Surviving Matewan, I had to immerse myself in the world of 1920 West Virginia. I started by reading a bunch of books on the subject, then searching through newspaper archives (it's a 45 minute trip to the Library of Congress from my house, joy!).
But you can't really begin to understand that world unless you go there. My finances are limited, so I only managed to go for a few days in the Fall of 2006. But I learned a lot, had some amazing experiences and took photos, lots of photos!
Here's a few from the start of the trip.
The first one is of the New River Gorge at sunset. The second and third are from the exhibition mine in Beckley. It's an old mine that's been converted into a tourist attraction. Retired miners serve as the tour guides and were kind enough to answer all the questions I had for them after the tour, and I had a lot of questions. There are also examples of a miner's household, the superintendent's house and a coal camp church. Finally, there's a gift shop that has some yummy fudge...and a little museum filled with mining equipment and fossils. At first that surprised me, but it really shouldn't, given what coal really is.