Books: On the Line Red Baker

by Robert Ward Dial; 202 pages; $14.95

In his fourth book Robert Ward has attempted to update a half-forgotten relic of the '30s: the proletarian novel, with its idealized workers and smokestack suburbs. Ward's contemporary laborers are not moved by Woody Guthrie's lyrics; they rock to Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin. They are not Dead End slum dwellers; they are Viet Nam vets and night-school dropouts. Their collars may be blue, but their lives run in the black: sheepskin jackets and vacations at the beach.

When hundreds of Baltimore steelworkers are laid off from their assembly line in the winter of 1983, however, the comfort abruptly collapses, leaving...

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