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The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rushby Howard Blum
Not to be missed by fans of history, Blum's tale of the Klondike Gold Rush reads like the best fiction. A lively narrative populated with a colorful cast of characters, the allure of Alaska and her gold comes across as a wild adventure story that offers rich rewards to readers today.
Synopses & Reviews
It is the last decade of the 19th century. The Wild West has been tamed and its fierce, independent and often violent larger-than-life figures — gun-toting wanderers, trappers, prospectors, Indian fighters, cowboys, and lawmen —are now victims of their own success. They are heroes who've outlived their usefulness.
But then gold is discovered in Alaska and the adjacent Canadian Klondike and a new frontier suddenly looms - an immense unexplored territory filled with frozen waterways, dark spruce forests, and towering mountains capped by glistening layers of snow and ice.
"Klondicitis," a giddy mix of greed and lust for adventure, ignites a stampede. Fleeing the depths of a worldwide economic depression and driven by starry-eyed visions of vast wealth, tens of thousands rush northward.
Joining this throng of greenhorns and grifters, whores and highwaymen, sourdoughs and seers are three unforgettable men. In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who, after futilely trying to settle down with his new bride, becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency's shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who's adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush — and becomes fabulously rich; and Soapy Smith, a sly and inventive predator-conman who rules a vast criminal empire.
As we follow this trio's lives, we're led inexorably into a perplexing mystery. A fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska, with no clues as to how the thieves made off with such an immensely heavy cargo. To many it appears that the crime will never be solved. But the Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for finding the answers that elude others. Charged with getting the job done is Charlie Siringo who discovers that, to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness. Ultimately, he'll have his quarry in his sights. But then an additional challenge will present itself. He must face down Soapy Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats. Hanging in the balance: George Carmack's fortune in gold.
At once a compelling true-life mystery and an unforgettable portrait of a time in America's history when thousands were fired with a vision of riches so unimaginable as to be worth any price, The Floor of Heaven is also an exhilarating tribute to the courage and undaunted spirit of the men and women who helped shape America.
"Blum, author of the bestselling and Edgar-winning American Lightning, displays all his creative gifts here. Using primary source materials from the three individuals around whom the narrative revolves, he tells a fascinating story of the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush. Charlie Siringo was a larger-than-life hero, a cowboy turned successful businessman turned Pinkerton detective renowned for his sense of duty. Jefferson 'Soapy' Smith epitomized the frontier 'confidence man' who considered dishonesty a way of life. George Carmack, the prospector who precipitated the great Alaska gold rush that drew the men together, deserted from the Marines, married a Native American, and pursued his prospecting dreams to the Klondike. Detailing crimes perpetrated and solved, relationships both happy and tragic, hardships unthinkable in the modern age, and the cold, magical allure of Alaska and the Yukon, Blum captures the spirit and mood of the last of the Old West. The final pages, especially, are filled with drama and a strange yearning. From a purely historical perspective, there should have been more information on Alaska as a Russian colony and American territory, but as an exciting narrative, this is a huge success. 8 pages of b&w photos; 1 map. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Full of suspense...an amazing real-life adventure story, peopled with characters that any novelist would be proud to have invented: first-rate entertainment." Michael Korda, New York Times bestselling author of Hero, With Wings Like Eagles and Ike
“In the tradition of great history as great literature...highly recommended...readers will be richly rewarded by Blum’s masterful use of a colorful cast of genuine historical characters set in the majestic northwestern wilderness.” Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Wildly compelling...a truly memorable frontier tale." Kirkus
"A tense, exciting tale filled with colorful characters.” Booklist
"Wonderfully original. This narrative about the Alaskan gold rush has everything but Charlie Chaplin....Blum laces together a grand string of adventures (all the more impressive for being true) that take us deep into the glory hole and the transforming power of greed." Pope Brock, New York Times bestselling author of Charlatan
“From a virtual mother lode of unmined material, Blum casts a narrative that both informs and entertains as he forges the image of the wild days of the last American frontier.” William C. Davis, author of the Pulitzer-nominated Battle of Bull Run and also Three Roads to the Alamo and Lone Star Rising
About the Author
Howard Blum is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner American Lightning, as well as such bestsellers as Wanted!, The Gold Exodus, and Gangland. He is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While at the New York Times, he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
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History and Social Science » Americana » Alaska