Richard S. Wheeler turns his great storytelling talent to an epic tale of riches, greed, and love set against the backdrop of the greatest gold stampede in American history, The California Gold Rush of 1849. When news of the gold strike sweeps the east, Ulysses McQueen is smitten with gold fever and heads west, leaving his new bride and a settled life in Iowa behind. And when Stephen Jarvis, a New York cooper's apprentice is discharged from the army in Monterey, he finds himself in the middle of an upheaval that is transforming California into a gold-fevered madhouse. In the midst of turning himself into a businessman, he meets and loves Rita Concepcion Estrada, the daughter of a patrician Californio, and a woman he can never win.
While McQueen struggles along the California trail, the heart-broken Jarvis supplies the miners and grows wealthy, if eternally lonely.
This great saga of the settling of California won a Spur Award for best long novel from Western Writers of America, and has gone into numerous editions.
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Richard S. Wheeler is the author of numerous historical novels, many of them associated with mining on the frontier. He is the recipient of the Owen Wister Award, for lifetime contributions to the literature of the West, and also of six Spur Awards. He considers this novel one of the finest he has ever written.
His mining camp historical novels also include Cashbox, Goldfield, Sun Mountain: A Story of the Comstock Lode, and The Richest Hill on Earth, the story of the copper kings of Butte, which will appear in December, 2011.
With varying results, two young men seek their fortunes in California after America's successful war against Mexico--in another solid historical from the prolific Wheeler (Cashbox, l994, etc.). When, in the spring of 1849, Ulysses McQueen (not yet 21) leaves his Iowa farm and pregnant wife Susannah to hunt for gold in faraway California, he endures a series of soul-testing hardships on the unsparing overland route to El Dorado. Robbed of his mules and gear by marauding Indians, menaced by brigands and disease, he still presses on. Meantime, Stephen Jarvis, an ex-Army officer, decides to try his luck on the West Coast. Hired as casual labor by Johann August Sutter, he's on site when gold is discovered near a sawmill being built by the Swiss ‚migr‚. Stephen soon strikes it rich and uses his new wealth to start retailing scarce tools and other goods to eager prospectors, yearning all the while for Rita Concepcion Estrada, a like-minded but well-born Mexican girl whose proud Catholic family wants no part of a Protestant Yanqui. As Stephen is making a name for himself among the merchant princes of Sacramento and San Francisco, Ulysses finally reaches California. Failing to hit pay dirt, he makes a deal for land in the San Joaquin Valley with Stephen, who's interested in developing local sources of fresh vegetables. Unbeknownst to Ulysses, Susannah has arrived in California by way of Panama (a journey that cost their infant daughter her life). The two finally find each other in 1851 and resolve to make a fresh start by returning to their agricultural roots. And at the 11th hour, Stephen's Latin ladylove kicks over the traces and that new pair sail off to make a new life for themselves in South America. Absorbing and eventful, replete with authoritative details on the mortal risks, primitive conditions, and sometimes rich rewards awaiting those who joined the gold rush to California. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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