For a moment he thought of forgetting the bus depot. He had almost fifty dollars in his wallet, and that would be enough until he could find some type of job. […] There was no work at all now back on the plateau, and his family would be better off if he stayed in the city and sent them part of his paycheck. There would be no J.W.’s to worry about, no long evenings in the cabin while his mother stared blankly at the fire, and no more quiet hatred or that anticipation of sudden violence when he stood next to a scab or a company man on a street corner.
The post-World War II economic boom, with the expansion in manufacturing fueled by increased consumer demand, should have been good for the coalfields of Appalachia. Instead, the social and economic devastation wrought by the Great Depression was prolonged by violent, protracted conflicts between union organizers and mine companies determined to keep the unions out and scrape every last cent of profit out of the region. This desperate poverty and equally desperate violence is the world in which Perry Woodson Hatfield James comes of age in James Lee Burke’s To the Bright and Shining Sun.