Born in 1965 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Sam is the primary protagonist of The Thaw along with his daughter Sarah Hayes. Sam was married to Michelle Hayes, whose father, George Thurman, a wealthy landowner from Pine Bluff, never approved of their union. Their relationship was not always smooth, owing to Sam’s resentment of Michelle’s father and wealth, and Michelle’s disapproval of the rough company Sam kept. Though they did love one another, and especially their daughter Sarah, and things were looking up before the Fall.
Sam was a welder working for Union Pacific in the Pine Bluff railyard before the Fall. While driving home from work that day, Sam collided with a dead one on the road, almost being bitten when checking on the thing, thinking it was a man. Worrying for his wife and daughter’s safety, Sam sped through the center of Pine Bluff with death and destruction everywhere, narrowly escaping a crowd of dead ones after crashing his truck in a torn apart police roadblock. Sam didn’t make it in time to save his wife, who had been bitten and killed by a neighbour who had turned, but he was able to rescue Sarah. They buried Michelle in their backyard the next day and set off for their long journey across a country devolving into chaos and terror.
Sam tries to keep the memory of his wife alive for their daughter, but each day it pains him to think of her, and his burgeoning feelings for Gloria Palermo lead to intense guilt and exacerbate the situation.