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Thirteen-year-old John C. McCoy slips into the cold water of the Tug Fork River and swims through the darkness to the West Virginia shore and his future. It is 1909, and in a dozen years, he and his wife, Hiley, and two daughters struggle to survive, and the couple joins the fight for food, shelter, and safety in the coal fields. In 1979, shortly after John C. dies, his grandson, an Army colonel, seeks the story of the mine wars, denied to him in public education, and the role of his grandfather in those wars, a story denied to him by his family. He discovers violence, Matewan and Baldwin Felts detectives, Police Chief Sid Hatfield, the Battle of Blair Mountain, and a dark struggle of spies, distrust, and betrayal. And as the larger mystery for him unfolds, he fears the nature of his grandfather's actions in that war, doubts that he should be searching, and asks himself, what will he find, and to whom will he tell what he has found. What was his grandpa's role, and will it write a story of pride or shame?