Independently Published (2017)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (1/18)
“Mud Puddlers” by Shaun Bailey is a historical fiction novel set in Boulder City during the construction of the Hoover Dam. It follows a cast of “mud puddlers;” men who stamped down the wet concrete of the dam during construction. The primary narrator is William Black, the mastermind of an illegal gambling ring that runs rampant among the workers.
The heavy research that went into writing this novel is made clear in Shaun Bailey’s attention to detail. He builds a clear atmosphere in Boulder City and on the Hoover Dam, taking care to utilize all the senses. It’s easy for the reader to imagine themselves there, trudging alongside his characters.
There are, however, times when Bailey pours too much of his research into the story. I felt like the reader was required to have prior knowledge on the intricate workings of Boulder City, Hoover Dam, and dam construction in general.
The dialogue between characters feels weighed down by a constant use of slang. While I’m certain these characters read authentically, it distracted me from the main point. I found myself having to pause in my reading to pick apart even short conversations.
I also found the pace of the plot to be inconsistent. After meandering for chapters at a time, it then picks up so quickly I would be missing key events. It’s a shame, because when it did shine through, the plot was engaging and immensely enjoyable.
This novel was clearly targeted towards a small and highly specific niche of people. I did learn a lot about the history of the Hoover Dam. I was also inspired to do some research of my own. Anyone with an interest in construction or a prerequisite in the history of the Hoover Dam is sure to enjoy “Mud Puddlers” by Shaun Bailey. I would recommend others read some of the sources listed in the back of the book before tackling it.
Beyond the history lesson, this novel is truly a study into the people who raised the Hoover Dam. That section of the work is fascinating to read, and definitely my favorite part overall.