Review by Jack Magnus

R.D. Saunders’s nonfiction memoir, Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico, is the author’s love song to the art and challenge of mining and his affinity with working underground. Before I began reading, I wondered how dry a book on this subject might be, but soon found that the author’s story was engaging and addictive. Saunders is a natural-born storyteller, and even being somewhat claustrophobic didn’t stop me from vicariously relishing his adventures while working as a laborer and eventually as a miner in Section 35. His accounts of the experienced men he worked with, and later those newer workers who became his helpers, are fascinating, especially his association and friendship with long-timer miner Cal Cargill. I found myself looking forward to the photographs that are interspersed throughout the narrative and avidly studying the machinery displayed in many of them. Yes, I’ve always been opposed to nuclear energy and fought the proliferation of nuclear power plants, but this book is not about those subjects. Yes, they mined for uranium, but the story of those miners, the life they led in that small boom town and the skills they used in making their working environment a safe one takes precedence here. Underground and Radioactive: Adventures of a Uranium Miner in 1970s New Mexico is most highly recommended.

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