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Share the History - Stories Set in Pittsburgh's Past

From the 18th through the 20th century, these novels focus on Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania's human history.

Allen, Hervey
The Forest and the Fort
Hervey Allen was born in Pittsburgh in 1889 and graduated from University of Pittsburgh. The Forest and the Fort is the first volume of a trilogy about Western Pennsylvania. Set in colonial Pittsburgh, it is the story of a frontiersman kidnapped as a boy by Shawnee Indians, and the Siege of Fort Pitt in 1763. The book was a New York Times bestseller in 1943.
 
Attaway, William
Blood on the Forge
The novel tells the story of the Moss brothers, three African Americans who leave sharecropping in Kentucky for the steel mills of Pittsburgh. Twelve-hour shifts, shanty slums, and the escape of whiskey leave the brothers no hope for the future, even if the future includes unionizing the mills.
 
Bell, Thomas
Out of this Furnace
Set in the author's home town of Braddock, PA. A memorial to the life of Braddock's immigrant mill-workers, and to the development of political consciousness in succeeding generations that culminated in the unionization of the steel mills.
 
Bonosky, Phillip
Burning Valley
The son of a Lithuanian immigrant steel worker in western Pennsylvania is determined to become a priest. As he questions his faith in God, he comes to believe in the power of the working class and the justice of their cause.
 
Davenport, Marcia
The Valley Of Decision
Concerned with a Pittsburgh industrial family over the course of seventy years, this novel's central theme is family ownership. You'll recognize the story of men who start with lowly mill jobs and work their way up by mastering every aspect of their business.
 

From These Hills, From These Valleys: Selected Fiction about Western Pennsylvania edited by David P. Demarest, Jr.
Most of the novels on this list are excerpted in From These Hills, which also contains short stories by Willa Cather, O. Henry, and Conrad Richter. Each selection begins with a brief introduction, including historical context and author biography.
 
Haigh, Jennifer
Baker Towers
Set in a postwar Pennsylvania mining town, whose most famous landmark is two slowly combusting piles of mine waste scrap coal, where poor families live in ethnic enclaves of company houses.
 
Silvis, Randall
Disquiet Heart
This historical crime novel tells the story of Edgar Allan Poe and his protégé as they visit Pittsburgh. During their visit, young women begin vanishing from the streets, and the men set out to investigate potential murders.
 
Wideman, John Edgar
The Homewood Books
The Homewood Books are three loosely related novels: Damballah, Hiding Place, and Sent for You Yesterday, set in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. Wideman himself writes that the three books "offer a continuous investigation, from many angles, not so much of a physical location, Homewood, . . . but of a culture, a way of seeing and being seen."
 

Updated: January 27, 2009