Pennsylvania coal miners’ strike of 1922 was both prolonged and brutal, especially in the coal patch towns surrounding Windber. Inspired by the violence and heroism of the strike, Damian Dressick spent months researching the rhythms of early coal town life. Immersing himself in coal heritage materials and interviewing retired miners and their wives, he brings us the story of Chet Pistakowski, a teen miner forced to provide for his family during one of the most brutal labor struggles in American history.
Weatherford Award winner Karen Spears Zacharias describes Dressick as “the freshest voice to come out of Appalachia since Wiley Cash arrived on the literary scene.
“40 Patchtown reads like a cross between E.L. Doctorow’s monumental novel Billy Bathgate and Breece Pancake’s deathless story ‘Hollow’—it’s a work of fully imagined historical fiction that endows its characters with incandescent life, told in the unmistakable language of the early twentieth century coalfields. It pulls the neat trick of feeling bound to a highly specific time and place while simultaneously giving the impression of classic timelessness. As fine a first novel as one could hope for.” ~ Pinckney Benedict
“Damian Dressick’s debut novel is a work of great empathy, a deeply satisfying evocation of a forgotten time and place. “~Jennifer Haigh, author of Heat and Light
”Deftly paced, gritty and poised, pitch perfect in its voice and historical rendering, Damian Dressick’s debut novel 40 Patchtown accelerates from its opening pages with desperate energy. Set against the comfortless backdrop of the brutal 1922 coal miners’ strike of Windber, Pennsylvania, the novel follows fatherless fourteen-year-old Chet Pistakowski as he struggles to support his mother and siblings in a setting dictated by violence, poverty, and manipulation. Told in lean, convincing, and clear-eyed prose, this historical and evocative coming-of-age story reveals a young man torn between family and morality, desperation and desire, circumstances and escape. ~James Charlesworth, author of The Patricide of George Bernard Hill