Flash: By Jim Miller, 197 pgs. By Steve Hart

Apr 27, 2012

Flash is the story of an alternative weekly journalist who—between tweaking the noses of various San Diego politicians and businessmen with a variety of stories—is embroiled in a deeper story of an I.W.W. freedom fighter who may or may not be his grandfather. Flash is extremely well written and intensely researched. One particular character is an anti-union man with the last name “Spreckels.” I wondered if he was somehow related to the man who built “Spreckelsville,” a neighborhood (and former sugar plantation village) on Maui. Although Maui wasn’t connected to the story, the exploitation of rail workers in San Diego ran parallel to the exploitation of workers in Hawaii.

The protagonist of the story, Jack, spends hours scouring articles found in public libraries for clues of Bobby Flash, (this also underscores the value of public libraries as a resource for historical archives) a man who was deeply involved with worker’s strikes and the subsequent battles with the police, anti-union thugs, and vigilantes. During his research from one library or the other, he ruminates upon his relationships with his mother and his son. These chapters are powerfully written and, in some cases, heartbreaking.

In newspapers today, unions are under attack, anti collective-bargaining rights bills have passed in Wisconsin, and right-wing governors in coordinated attacks on unions propose similar bills. Against this backdrop, reading Flash is extremely rewarding. –(AK Press, 674 A 23rd St., Oakland, CA 94612)