King Coal is the first book by Upton Sinclair that I read, and it won’t be the last. It’s a very good example of socialist propaganda, and I mean it in a good way, think Ayn Rand’s evil twin, or something. The story is pretty interesting, and it’s based on the real events.
There is no denying that many workers had a miserable life in the beginning of the 20-th century, and this book brilliantly captures the spirit of those times. One of the core miner demands was an 8-hour workday, which sounds completely reasonable nowadays, but imagine someone advocating for an 4-hour workday now. There is no optimal number, and social norms are pretty hard to change.
The author obviously tries to promote labour unions and to shit on capitalism, but the main issue with company towns is monopoly. As always, the real problem is in the ability of one group of men to control the others, and labor unions, governments and big business are equally cruel and dangerous, there are no good guys at that scale.