Speaking in Chicago in 1871, Terrence Powderly says, in the novel, "Companies are no longer owned by families but by corporations. The sense of responsibility, which was once assured in a simpler world, is gone. It is replaced by robber barons who are driven by greed."
In the novel, Mother Jones remembers reading articles in The Charleston Gazette and Daily Mail -- articles whose perspectives she often criticized. After she was released from confinement in Pratt, Mother Jones spent some time recovering at Saint Francis Hospital, which just opened in Charleston in 1913.
At the end of "Hellraiser," Ash writes, "Even the words Mother Jones wrote down were often suspect. ... Mother Jones was reckless with the facts throughout her lifetime, remembering and reporting events to fit her purposes. Her little white lies about her age are a good example."
Mother Jones often said she was born in 1830, which would have meant she was 100 when she died in 1930. But Mary Harris was born in Cork, Ireland on Aug. 1, 1837.
Ash portrays Mother Jones as being very militant, but opposed to violence. For example, she opposed the historic March on Blair Mountain March in August 1921, which developed into the largest armed conflict in U.S. labor history.
She tried to stop that march, which began in Marmet, by reading miners a letter she received from President Warren Harding. But that letter, it turned out, was fabricated.
@brfs:Writing the book
@bod:"I first heard about Mother Jones in 1976 when I was co-author of 'West Virginia USA' with Strat Douthat, a feature writer for The Associated Press," Ash said.
"It just kind of stuck in my head. I started picking up stuff about Mother Jones. When I retired, I got kind of serious about it and read everything I could get my hands on. There are so many mysteries about Mother Jones."
Ash said he thinks of new book "more as a history book than as fiction, but it is obviously historical fiction. Her travels are all true. There are 17 states in the book which she touched in some way or another.
"The Memphis story, where she lost her husband and children to yellow fever, is again fiction based on fact."
Born to a coal-mining family in Bridgeport, Ash earned a master's degree in journalism from WVU before he began teaching there. In the 1970s, he was editor and co-publisher of the The Preston County News in Terra Alta.
After he left the state Legislature in 1987, he became vice president of the West Virginia Hospital Association.
"I have been away from West Virginia since 1988. I went to Nevada to work for the Nevada Hospital Association," Ash said. "This book has gotten my head back into West Virginia."
Working on "Hellraiser," Ash said, "I started out telling an old story in a different way. In the process, I became so excited about the similarities between the issues of her day and the issues of my day."
Ash recently created "The Mother Jones Hellraiser Club" on Facebook. "I am trying to put her back as a spirit and an inspiration for working men and women and children today. All of us are the underclass anymore.
"We are the richest country in the world. But we are not rich. When most of us retire, all we have is Social Security. All of a sudden you are a pauper."
At the end of "Hellraiser," Ash writes, "Big box retailers and fast food chains are the coal mines and the sweatshops of modern America."
More information about Ash is available at jerryash.com.
Ash also praised previous books written about Mother Jones, including: "Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America," a biography by Elliott J. Gorn, published in 2001; and "Mother Jones Speaks," a collection of speeches and writings edited by Philip S. Foner published in 1983.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.