By Dave Mistich
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
CHARLESTON -- Author Peter A. Galuszka reveals how complex Don Blankenship can be in "Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal."
"In person, Donald Blankenship can be surprisingly underwhelming," Galuszka says in the book. "When I first met him at the Richmond, Virginia headquarters of Massey Energy in the fall of 2002, he fixed his brown eyes on me as I asked my questions and made my pitch to visit one of his coal mines with a photographer.
"His eyes were steady and unblinking, almost expressionless. Deep fleshy jowls and his square face gave him the appearance of an oversized basset hound. He answered my questions in a few, carefully chosen words, as if to reveal only enough to keep our meeting moving along."
In the book, Galuszka weaves together a narrative about his formative years in West Virginia, the disaster at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine, his interactions with miners, coal executives and the complexities of their effect upon one another.
Among the various central characters of Galuszka's book is Blankenship, the former Massey CEO. The author describes interacting with his notorious subject years before the Upper Big Branch disaster.
"I went to see Blankenship in this sort of dark and foreboding building in downtown Richmond. He was very hard to read. He was very nondescript. He stared at me -- he looked at me -- but he was not in any way rude. He was quite polite. He was not animated.