Witness at Hawks Nest by Dwight Harshbarger
1930: the Great Depression. Twenty-five cent an hour jobs attract thousands of men to West Virginia, two-thirds of them black, to drill Union Carbide's Hawks Nest tunnel through near-solid rock. Within months, men fall ill and die of a mysterious illness tunnelitis company doctors call it. Lacking respiratory protection, at least 800, possibly over 1,500, workers will die of acute silicosis in America's worst industrial disaster. Orville Orr, a company-paid deputy sheriff secures the first autopsy of a tunnel worker and builds evidence of the company's responsibility for the deaths. Armen, the mixed-race daughter of a tunnel worker and union organizer who has died of silicosis, joins him and they fall in love, as Orville risks his life to expose the truth.
Huntington, WV: Mid-Atlantic Highlands, 2009 - 261p