Review: Granite Kingdom

Granite Kingdom, Eric Pope. Montpelier, VT: Rootstock Publishing, 2022.

Summary: Set in Vermont’s granite country in 1910, narrates a rivalry between two granite companies representing old and new ways, with a young newspaperman with social aspirations caught in between.

Dan Strickland is a stonecutter’s son. His father died of white lung disease, breathing in granite dust as he worked in George Rutherford’s granite shops. He has higher aspirations and goes to work at the Granite Junction Gazette, helping with various tasks given him by Slayton, the editor who hopes his weekly editorials will open the way to higher positions with a big city newspaper. Meanwhile Dan begins working as a reporter, whose “Local Lumps” column rapidly becomes the town’s favorite part of the newspaper.

Rutherford Granite is the biggest employer in town. Capitalized by out-of-town investors, they dominate the granite business in this Vermont town, and thus enjoy the favor of the newspaper and the town fathers. The rival is Wheeler Granite, a smaller and older company. Rutherford is a union shop. Wheeler builds personal loyalty and pays well for quality work. Rutherford goes big, with government building contracts in big cities. Wheeler does a smaller but steady business. George Rutherford loves new ways, new machines and methods. Wheeler sticks to the tried and true. Rutherford tries to win Wheeler over, attempting to persuade him to take some smaller jobs. Wheeler refuses.

They clash. Rutherford dumps waste on Wheeler’s property. Rutherford takes over the railroad and charges his competitors more than his own company. This is at the behest of his investors who want more profit. It costs his bookkeeper his integrity. Wheeler challenges him repeatedly in court and wins, but has a tough time with the enforcement of any judgments. George Rutherford would like to get along but his wife Alice is another story. She is determined that the business will succeed and that the Rutherfords will dominate society, even if it means cutting Wheeler’s wife out of the social scene.

Just when Rutherford Granite seems to have the upper hand a series of deadly accidents occur. Rutherford enlists Dan to investigate, suspecting anarchist activity, which has occurred in other towns. Both Dan’s investigative efforts and his social and romantic ambitions expose him to the various strata of Granite Junction society, from the West End where workers live, and where liquor can be bought in the dry town and sensual pleasures satisfied, to the shops on Main Street, where many of the Gazette’s advertising money comes from, and the upper class homes (and girls) on High Street. Others like to use Dan as well, like the winsome Perley Prescott, always working a new business scheme, who uses Dan to procure liquor. Then there is Bob Blackstone, Wheeler’s foreman who resents the favoring of the Rutherford enterprises by the newspaper and Dan’s investigations into the “accidents” at Rutherford’s business. Resentments turn to threats.

Dan discovers how hard it is to rise beyond one’s roots in such a stratified society. As a reporter, will he truly report “without fear or favor?” Will he pursue prestige or power, or listen to Lieutenant Ridgeway who sees a different future in this young man? And beyond these personal matters, how will the increasingly deadly rivalry resolve and what will that mean for Granite Junction and its workers?

First-time author Eric Pope combines a page turning plot with a sociological study of a town in the heart of the granite mining industry. He draws upon his experience editing a northern Vermont paper for ten years while researching the town’s history, the basis for this novel. Like real life, there are characters we love and root for, ones we admire, ones we hate, and a number in between, all the types that make up a town like Granite Junction–and maybe our town as well.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

One thought on “Review: Granite Kingdom

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: February 2023 | Bob on Books

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