Sometimes a writer does such a wonderful job of describing a place and era, that reading his words is like traveling there in a time machine.  William Gibbons, author of Those Black Diamond Men: A Tale of the Anthrax Valley, originally published in 1902, claims in his foreword that he spent fifteen years among the coal miners of Appalachian Pennsylvania and it shows.  While technically a work of fiction, the characters, scenes, and emotions he paints with his words become so crystal clear and eerily vivid in your mind, the events he portrays so poignantly tragic and heroic at the same time, and all of it so utterly human, that his book feels like non-fiction.  The value of old books lies precisely in what you will gain by reading this one.  No historian with his tedious listing of facts, dates, and professional analyses could ever convey you by time machine to a 19th-century coal mining town and give you the experience of being there, like Mr. Gibbons does.

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