The boiling summer of 1959. The nation is gripped by a long and bitter steel industry strike. Steelton, Pennsylvania, and its principal employer, Bethlehem Steel, are caught in the heat and pressure of the labor strike that will persist for months.
The residents of the town suffer without paychecks and struggle to survive. The executives of Bethlehem Steel Company, each with their own ambition, maneuver for advantage. Facing threats from a powerful underworld mob in Harrisburg known for gambling, loan sharking and brutal violence, the Steelton crime ring led by the town’s former police chief and an influential local business leader tries to maintain its lucrative but illegal enterprise that profits from stolen liquor and steel.
Tim and Harry Burger, brothers from the West Side, strive to succeed in their own way. Harry does the right things, lives the right way. Tim cuts his own deals and looks out for himself. Can their relationship endure the clash of their two lives that are bound together by family, but torn apart by the tensions of money, independence, and women?
Steelton: Iron in the Fire is the stunning sequel to STEELTON: A Novel.
As he plans his civilian life after his Army hitch, Korean War veteran Harry Burger aspires to escape his family’s row home hard by the imposing steel mill. The obvious choice, returning to his union job, is not for Harry. He wants to join the emerging middle class as a professional.
His younger brother, Tim, enjoys success without seeming to work for it – a mystery to Harry. Hidden behind the ordinary, the routine, an unlikely alliance of partners in crime is providing Tim with plenty of cash: a politically powerful businessman; an enigmatic police chief; a government employee who controls a vast liquor business, and a small-time hoodlum who squeezes a living on the fringes of organized crime.
A sprawling steel mill and the proud town that surrounds it binds the residents together as they make their decisions to get what they want or keep what they have. One neighborhood in that town, the West Side, is a microcosm of Steelton: the strivers, the street-smart, those who have given up, and those who have settled for less. The pace of the everyday, the rise and fall of love affairs, the making of reputations, and the making of steel all take place in Steelton.
As the story unfolds, questions arise: Do their choices matter? How is success defined? What rules are to be followed? In Steelton, it depends…