(c) Bill Yund

Like class-conscious fiction? See my new article

A Novel Idea: Fiction for Labor Activists

graphic: Bill Yund

McClure gets it right: the workers in her fictional campaign that’s disrupted by a murder are real people, with more than a few warts. 

— Jane Slaughter,

review in Labor Notes

One of the best reads of the year in any genre. McClure is a new voice with talent like Paretsky or Grafton for a strong female lead, saddled with equal measures of integrity and weakness. Readers get a front seat for her challenges and growth. McClure's characters and the community they create are vibrant.

Sharon Cornu,
former AFL-CIO national field director

Loved Organize or Die. The hero is cooler than Marlowe and Gurley Flynn's love child.

—Mark Leier, 
labor historian, Simon Fraser University


McClure is a big league mystery writer who knows how to keep you on edge. No matter how you feel about unions, you're going to love the way the main character, Ruth Reid, goes about her business as she tries to organize the workers, stay close to her married lover, keep her hot 18 year old niece out of trouble, and take on the mob. Like Reid, you're going to want a scotch or three to help you deal with all the tension of this fast-paced drama.

 Les Leopold, 

author, The Looting of America 


McClure has a real feel for the working class characters who populate Organize or Die: they are neither romanticized heroes nor Homer Simpson-esque caricatures; just people struggling to survive in a world in which they hold very few cards. Ruth Reid, the jaded union organizer who steps into what looks like a doomed campaign after her friend is murdered, is a well-drawn noir hero: flawed and conflicted, she has an indomitable bent to stand up for the underdog. Like the best noir writing, Organize and Die is also an allegory about power, corruption and personal redemption.

— Mark Dudzic, 

Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare 

Sex, murder, politics, whisky, and very bad girls with good attitudes.  Organize or Die is a great read that gives you a glimpse of union organizing subculture and the people who make it their lives and livelihood. 
Ed Ott, 

former executive director, NYC Central Labor Council 


McClure has written one for the 99 percent. Full of intrigue, suspense, and drama, Organize or Die exposes the joy - and the inherent risk - found in all hard-fought organizing campaigns. The characters' commitment to workplace equity, and their good humor, are infectious.

Eleanor J. Bader, 

author, Targets of Hatred

Order the paperback from Amazon or Powells

Get the KINDLE book

Download a flyer about Organize or Die.

Ruth Reid is burned out. She's ditched her life as an organizer, along with her unavailable boyfriend and her hopeless idealism. 

But just as she’s settling into her new life, which involves sitting on the couch in Brooklyn with her cat and a bottle of scotch, she learns that her former colleague, the famed Victoria Shales, has been murdered in the middle of a major union organizing campaign.
Against her better judgment, Ruth agrees to take Victoria’s place and rescue the campaign — if she can.  With the election clock ticking loudly, Ruth scrambles to pull together a ragtag group of workers who can help her outgun the company, outrun a pair of deadly thugs, and maybe even pull off an impossible win.


Read the new mystery about love & organizing by Laura McClure, selected as a top submission by the NY chapter of Mystery Writers of America. 
Check out Chapter One!





I love mysteries – which is why I wrote one. Some fans of “literary” fiction might look down their noses at those of us who hang out in the the working class neighborhood of “genre fiction.” But you know what? Like workers, mysteries get the job done. And many mysteries are literary to boot: broody and deep and unpredictable.

Ever since I was a kid with a five-foot shelf of Nancy Drews, I’ve gorged on mysteries. And writing one helped me figure out why. Here are my three top reasons.

1. Mysteries are about dogged persistence in the face of fear and adversity.

Even when the typical mystery protagonist doesn’t completely win, she puts up a good fight. And she usually does it by being stubbornly systematic, analytical, and relentless. These are qualities I’d like to have more of, and I like reading about them. There’s an underlying calmness amid the mayhem of mysteries, and it comes from the beating heart of a hero who refuses to give up. It’s not that our hero is superwoman – in fact often half her obstacles are internal. (In Organize or Die, my hero Ruth Reid practically does herself in with drinking, love, lust, and rage.) I like that too. Damn it, we may not be able to defeat our demons, internal or external, but we can put our shoulder to the wheel and try!

2. Mysteries are a perfect hanger, providing shape and drape for almost any narrative.
Or, to use another analogy, mysteries have a powerful, driving narrative engine that can drive any vehicle, from a tank to a Vespa. No matter who our guy is and what he’s up against, we have to keep reading to find out whether he’s going to win, lose, live or die. What’s more, the structure of mysteries - trying, failing, and then trying again in pursuit of truth and justice – especially lends itself to social critique. I practically grew up on Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and other feminist trailblazers. Their strong, steady heroines are the Gloria Steinems of fiction. Mystery writers take it all on – from Walter Moseley and Barbara Neely on racism, to Carl Hiaassen’s wicked riffs on environmental destruction. The narrative engine also drives mysteries about crocheting and cats and afternoon tea, and – more importantly, from my point of view – gives Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum something to do as she tries to choose between her two hot guys. (It’s bad boy Ranger, all the way!)

3. Mysteries are a way to learn a lot of new things without really trying.

Obviously, you can learn a truckload about police procedure and legal process (with a sexy twist from Lisa Scottolini, for example). You can also learn about Navajo culture (Hillerman), or about Venice from a politically progressive point of view (I adore Donna Leon), or about Russian corruption (Martin Cruz Smith). So you may not be getting a PhD on these subjects by reading mysteries. But you can learn stuff you just can’t find in a textbook or a news article, because mysteries are about human psychology and culture. After twenty years of writing nonfiction articles about workplace issues, unions, and organizing, I was neck deep in the “characters” I’d been covering. All that grit, pain, idealism, perseverance, despair, longing, pettiness, egotism, fear and fearlessness … and I’d barely been able to write about any of it, because my peg was news. Or analysis that didn’t go to questions like, “How do you keep on going when you keep on losing?”


And that’s the genesis of my new book, Organize or Die, which is dedicated to organizers everywhere. Viva organizers! And viva mysteries!