John Griswold's perfectly named A DEMOCRACY OF GHOSTS is a beautifully written novel. The subject matter is grim - the torture and murder of 21 scab workers by union workers during a coal mining strike in 1922 Illinois, known as The Herrin Massacre. Since the reader knows the outcome of events contained within the narrative from the outset, the tension is tight throughout. Although we are told by the cover copy the narrative is about four couples (some of whom are the author's ancestors), the somewhat detached prose style lifts the focus to that of the community as a whole -- the 'democracy of ghosts' if you will. Still, the struggles, dreams and loyalties of the individuals themselves are never lost. There are echos of Upton Sinclair in this book, but also of James Agee's LET US KNOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. I was reminded of some of Agee's techniques, particularly when Griswold chooses the first person plural point of view. It's a risky move, but one I think Griswold pulls off admirably. Scattered throughout the novel are newspaper reports, letters and other historical documents, all used to good effect and there are passages of great lyricism -- the epilogue being a notable example. Well done. This book deserves a wide readership and stands as a good example of how to successfully pull off an engaging novel based on a historical event.