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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
If you like well-researched novels based on some fascinating, if sometimes brutal, true American history, Mud Puddlers by Shaun Bailey is for you. On one level, it’s the fictional story of William Black, a Hoover Dam worker who dabbles in union organizing and illegal gambling. One gets him arrested and brutally beaten; the other places him at deadly odds with others. On a broader level, Bailey has written a tribute to the sacrifices of those who completed this historic structure. His inclusion of the 1931 poem, “Us Old Boys on Boulder Dam,” by Claude Rader conveys the spirit from that day.
I read Mud Puddlers not just as a reviewer, but as someone who lived for many years in Las Vegas and was privileged to tour parts of the dam structure not open to the general public. Bailey has done a magnificent job in providing a historical backdrop to his plot, which describes not just the feat of the dam construction itself, but also the place and the times in which it occurred, including such aspects as the union movement, the treatment of African and Native Americans, and the rise of criminal activities. His narrative is descriptive, flowing, and engaging. The characters are well developed and become real to us.
That said, some readers may struggle with keeping their interest in the story through large amounts of dialog in the vernacular. I did. But hold on! Bailey has some suspenseful and dramatic moments coming at you that you won’t want to miss. Caution: there is murder and mayhem afoot. And, as far as the rumors of a body being buried in the dam go, I’ll only note what one of the characters said: “Ain’t paranoia if it’s true.” A masterfully written, informative, and entertaining read.