Published by Riverhead Books
Publication date: August 20th 2013
In Sweet Thunder, Morrie Morgan and his new wife Grace are still on their year-long honeymoon when they get called back to Butte, Montana. A former boss is giving them his home, a grand old mansion. The only caveat is that he, Sam Sandison, is now their tenant in this massive new home. For Morrie, a wandering sort of fellow who won his fortune betting against the White Sox in the 1919 World Series, settling in one place will not be easy, as there are plenty of unhappy Chicago bookies looking for him. Back in Butte, he meets up with an old friend, a former copper miner who’s now in the state legislature and wants Morrie’s help in a plan to take on the copper company. As the area’s largest employer, Anaconda Company is aptly named because it has the citizens of Butte in an economic chokehold and continues to squeeze every bit of life out of the miners. Morrie is enlisted to help at a start-up newspaper designed to publicize Anaconda’s shady dealings. With his sharp wit and way with words he begins churning out editorials they hope will bring Anaconda to justice.
Author Ivan Doig is a Montana native and a former newspaperman and Sweet Thunder echoes with a love of and understanding for both. It is old-fashioned story-telling with the perfect mix of quirky characters, crackling dialogue, and even a sense of menace as Morrie has to negotiate his way through bootleggers, union politics, gangsters, and a ruthless corporation determined to keep the status quo. Things become even more complicated when his past catches up with him and costs him the one person he relies on. When Grace leaves him he finds
Something had changed in me; something in weight of life. For more of my years than I cared to count, solitude seemed to be my full measure spooned by fate.
In the understated manner of an old school journalist Doig creates a time and place with prose so imbued with atmosphere it is easy to visualize each of the characters and their actions. Most evocative are the newsroom scenes and the battle the team faces to make a difference. At a time when American newspapers seem to be hearing their death knell, Sweet Thunder is a reminder of the power of the paper and information to change the world.