Last Man Out
The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster
By Melissa Fay Greene
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151005598, 352pp.)
Publication Date: April 2003
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The deepest coal mine in North America was notoriously unpredictable. One late October evening in 1958, it "bumped" - its rock floors heaving up and smashing into rock ceilings. A few miners staggered out, most of the 174 on shift did not.
Nineteen men were trapped, plunged into darkness, hunger, thirst, and hallucination. As days and nights passed, the survivors began to hope for death by gas rather than from thirst. Above ground, journalists and families stood in despairing vigil, as rescuers brought out scores of the dead. The hope of finding life undergound faded and families made funeral preparations.
Then, a miracle: Rescuers stumbled across a broken pipe leading to a cave of survivors, then a second group was discovered.
A media circus followed. Ed Sullivan, then the state of Georgia, invited survivors to visit. Publicity, politics, and segregation sorted the men differently than they had ordered themselves. Underground, the one black survivor nursed a dying man; in Atlanta, Governor Marvin Griffin said: "I will not shake hands with a Negro."
If every great writer has one tale of peril, heroism, and survival, Last Man Out is Melissa Fay Greene's. Using long-lost stories and interviews with survivors, Greene has reconstructed the drama of their struggle to stay alive
Melissa Fay Greene's books, Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing, were National Book Award finalists, winning numerous other awards. Greene has written for the New Yorker, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Life. She lives in Atlanta.
PRAISE FOR PRAYING FOR SHEETROCK
"[Greene] is able to bring a people and a place to life without sentimentalizing or refashioning human beings into heroes and villains. . . . A rare reading experience."--The Washington Post Book World
"Intuition favors a prepared mind, and Ms. Greene prepared hers by storing the news, gossip, and secrets of her informants, together with her prodigious observations, over a period of years. . . . Poetic and picaresque."--The New York Times Book Review
"Superbly drawn . . . Greene's prose is graceful and intuitive. She is far more than a journalist or historian; she is a Southern storyteller in the true tradition of the artist who reveals the wisdom, humanity and frailty of ordinary people."--The Miami Herald