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Wildcat by William Trent Pancoast

Wildcat (edition 2010)

by William Trent Pancoast

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Authors:William Trent Pancoast
Info:Blazing Flowers Press (2010), Paperback, 120 pages
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Wildcat by William Trent Pancoast

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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

For international readers who don't know, it was in the 1970s that things regarding labor relations in America really came to a head, an escalating series of violent confrontations between unions and corporate militias as the mass migration of manufacturing to Asia in these years caused a panic among everyone involved; and in the US in particular, nowhere did this conflict get bigger or more symbolic than within the auto industry, the one product that had come to virtually define the country in the eyes of the rest of the world by the mid-20th century, and thus was ripe during the countercultural era for further metaphors of American Exceptionalism gone wrong, no matter which side you were on or what in particular you believed. And now we have Wildcat, a short but thematically dense fictionalized account of those years, by a former GM die-cutter named William Trent Pancoast who now teaches writing at several state colleges in central Ohio. (And to be clear, Pancoast has actually been writing and publishing social-realist drama since the '80s; and just in case you're confused by where his sympathies lie, also know that he was an editor of a union newspaper for two decades.)

As such, then, Pancoast has a tendency to dip way too far into straight-out melodrama to make many of his points, and like many self-published works Wildcat could benefit from some more polishing and editing; but that said, this was also much better than average for this type of book, with its strongest point easily being how Pancoast folds in the whole gamut of complicated issues in the early '70s that led to all these messes in the first place -- not just the eternal fight between labor and management, not just the mass exodus of so many American blue-collar jobs, but also the returning ranks of PTSD-suffering Vietnam vets in those years, angry at the world and eager to get into another fight, as well as the countercultural movement, the growing corruption within the unions themselves, the crisis happening within urban inner cities at the same time, and a lot more. It's not necessarily something to go out of your way to read, but a fine and entertaining historical drama if you're to come across it, and especially in the case of those looking to learn more about its time and milieu. It comes recommended in that spirit.

Out of 10: 8.0 ( )
  jasonpettus | Jul 22, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0982914210, Paperback)

There really has never been any way for autoworkers to explain what went on in the auto industry—folks either didn’t believe them or thought they were making it up. Wildcat is the story they tried to tell and is the book that autoworkers will buy and read once they know about it. For many blue collar retirees, Wildcat has had a cathartic effect—somebody finally told their story. General Motors and the United Auto Workers lock horns in this tale of a go-for-broke wildcat strike. Wildcat is set in Vietnam-era, 1970 Ohio at a General Motors stamping plant--lots of laughs, labor history, and a not nostalgic look at what Vietnam cost us all. Just when General Motors is facing its biggest challenge, along comes Bill Pancoast's Wildcat. This gritty connected sequence of short stories follows a team of autoworkers back in GM's oil-spattered glory days. Whether you're reading about security captain Big Bill or line worker Bobby Finnegan, these stories reveal the slimy underbelly of the car industry with a muckraker's finesse. Pancoast's knowledge of factory operations, his portrait of labor-and human-relations in America's heartland, recall Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, as well as Ida Tarbell's exposé of the Standard Oil Company. -James Reiss, author of Riff on Six I used to tell Bill Pancoast that he was going to get his ass kicked if he didn't shut up. I'm glad he didn't listen to me. Wildcat is the story of the auto industry no one ever believed when I told it. Fiction is fact. --Ken Kreiger, retired autoworker, 41 years service Most novelists haven't been anywhere near an auto plant, let alone worked in one, but Bill Pancoast has. Wildcat takes us inside a spontaneous strike at an Ohio stamping plant in the Vietnam era, showing how righteous anger, insane hijinks, and bloodshed can break out when workers decide to do something--anything--about brutal and boring working conditions. --Christopher Phelps, Associate professor, American Studies, University of Nottingham Bill Pancoast's Wildcat is a funny, sad, and thoroughly convincing portrait of autoworkers--many damaged by war, broken dreams, or substance abuse--dependent on a General Motors plant in fictional Cranston, Ohio, during the Sixties and Seventies. After reading this moving novel-in-stories, I once again asked myself: why is the subject of work so often neglected by today's fiction writers? Fortunately, we have Pancoast to fill in some of the blanks. --Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff In most of the recent books, articles, and analyses of General Motors, few armchair critics have bothered to write about the company's attitude toward the rank-and-file workers who build its cars. Fortunately, we now have Bill Pancoast, a front-line autoworker in one of GM's key factories for many years, to thank for filling that void. In this slim volume, Pancoast packs in accounts of the company's behavior before, during, and after "wildcat" strikes, the union's response, and the very human stories of life and death on the line. For those trying to understand why the auto industry is where it is today, Wildcat will provide some of the answers. --Dave Elsila, editor, Solidarity magazine, 1976-1998 and former editor, American Teacher and Changing Education

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:56 -0400)

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