"Hellraiser: Mother Jones: An Historical Novel" by Jerry Ash, Sun City Center, Fla.: APS Publishing, 306 pages. Paperback, $16.95.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living" was the theme of the life of Mother Mary Harris Jones -- a major figure in the history of coal miners and labor unions across the country.
"Medieval West Virginia. With its tent colonies on the bleak hills. With its grim men and women. When I get to the other side, I shall tell God Almighty about West Virginia," she wrote in her autobiography published in 1925.
The life of Mother Jones has inspired several biographies and collections of her speeches.
This month, Jerry Ash, who was elected to two terms in the West Virginia Senate and taught journalism at West Virginia University for seven years, published the first historical novel written about the iconic figure.
"Hellraiser: Mother Jones," Ash's new book, probes inside the mind of Mother Jones during her travels across the country, especially to the coalfields.
In the new book, Mother Jones talks about helping organize workers in North Carolina textile towns, Pennsylvania steel mills and Montana copper mines. During her travels, she became particularly upset when she met children working in these industries.
During her long career, Mother Jones worked for the United Mine Workers and also developed ties with the Western Federation of Miners and Industrial Workers of the World.
In "Hellraiser," Mother Jones reflects on many of her life experiences while spending weeks confined in a house in Pratt after being arrested for helping striking miners on Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.
Mother Jones met a wide array of people during her real, and new fictional, life, including: Terrence Powderly, head of the Knights of Labor; Clarence Darrow, a famous lawyer who wrote the forward to her autobiography; Eugene v Debs, a socialist labor leader jailed for opposing World War I; United Mine Workers Presidents John Mitchell and John L. Lewis; West Virginia Gov. Henry D. Hatfield, who released her from confinement; and Seth Low, mayor of New York City and Columbia University president.
"Hellraiser" is filled with conversations Mother Jones held with these, and many other, people.
Writing an historical novel, Ash said during an interview with The Sunday Gazette-Mail, allows you to "fill in the blanks in history.
"There is so much that is not known about Mother Jones. What is known kind of leads you to imagine what it must have been like. Even though it is a work of fiction, 90 percent is based on fact."
Mother Jones ends up having dinner with Hatfield in the governor's mansion in Charleston, after Hatfield released her from confinement in Pratt.
"I don't know if that ever happened," Ash said. "That is fiction. What isn't fiction is that she had a lot of interactions with Gov. Hatfield.
"Hatfield was a doctor. While he was governor, he would go up to Paint Creek and Cabin Creek and attend to the medical needs of the miners and families. He got her released from jail in Pratt. She went to see him at the governor's office to continue her crusade.
"She had a lot of conversations. They were all behind closed doors. We don't know what was said. But we do know what Gov. Hatfield said in public. He was very much on the side of miners.
"I really enjoyed getting inside Mother Jones' head and inside the governor's head, trying to play out how it must have been in real life," Ash said.
The novel also quotes Mother Jones talking about problems in her own life, such as the death of her husband George, an iron molder who supported the North during the Civil War, and their four children. In 1867, they all died in Memphis, Tenn., from yellow fever.
Mother Jones is very outspoken and militant throughout "Hellraiser," as she was throughout her own life.
"Hellraiser" criticizes the impact of the "Industrial Revolution" on society.