The Derelict Light
by Mike Stark
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Pub Date 01 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books
When a fire destroys most of the city, and a body is found hanging from the docks, the city tears at its seams. Lines are drawn, and influence wields violence. Inspired by historical events, The Derelict Light explores a Pacific Northwest town in the grips of catastrophe, caught in a bitter struggle between progress, greed, and human frailty.
“Mike Stark takes us a century into the past in this gripping tale set around the 1922 Astoria fire. The Derelict Light depicts a community in conflict with the era’s prominent leftists—Wobblies and Finnish socialists—organizing to build a better future, and the notorious Klan scheming to further oppress those on society’s margins. The brutal realities of Northwest working-class life jump off the pages of The Derelict Light. Few books, fiction or nonfiction, so ably capture the everyday experiences of working people who lived in this gray, rainy land. Stark deserves praise for penning this captivating novel. A must-read book for anyone with an interest in Northwest history.”—Aaron Goings, author of The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest
“The Derelict Light belongs to the tradition of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath, and the American proletarian novels of the 1930s, in highlighting the intersections among work, migration, and politics. Mike Stark does a fine job of creating the world of 1920s Astoria, firmly planting the reader’s feet in the muddy streets. He adds unique and needed detail to our nation’s ongoing conversation about its core principles. An impressive novel.”—Tracy Daugherty, author of 148 Charles Street and Snow and Straw