The floor of heaven A true tale of the last frontier and the Yukon gold rush

Howard Blum

Book - 2011

Using primary source materials from three individuals around whom the narrative revolves, best-selling author Blum tells a fascinating story of the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush.

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Review by Booklist Review

In 1896, gold nuggets were found in a tributary of the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory. By the following year, the last great gold rush in North America was on. Like the earlier rushes, this one drew a motley throng of dreamers, entrepreneurs, rogues, and even future literary giants (Jack London) into it, including the three fascinating and very different men at the center of this true-life saga that combines the crime story and the frontier epic. George Carmack, supposed discoverer of the nuggets, quickly amassed a fortune. Charming but ruthless con man Soapy Smith and his cadre of thugs launched a series of serpentine plots to loot Carmack's fortune. That brought into the mix Charlie Siringo, who stood astride the epoch of the Wild West and the emergence of big business. After years as a cowboy, he had become an undercover operative for the Pinkerton Agency and worked to combat labor agitators in the mining industry. The ingenuity of both Siringo and Smith as they try to outwit each other, with Carmack's fortune at stake, makes for a tense, exciting tale filled with colorful characters.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Blum (contributing editor, Vanity Fair; American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century) combines his skills as an investigative journalist and popular author to bring forth an original history of the last of the Western gold rushes in the northwestern frontier of Alaska and Canada. Closely basing his narrative on primary historical documents and academic histories, Blum brings new life to prospector George Carmack's Yukon adventures. In the tradition of great history as great literature, he sorts out historical contradictions and variations to provide a single lively narrative wherein Charlie Siringo, a cowboy-turned-Pinkerton detective and author (e.g., A Texas Cowboy, or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony) solves the mystery of the Treadwell Mine gold thefts before dealing with Denver con artist Soapy Smith's attempt to relieve Carmack of his newly won fortune. VERDICT Highly recommended for public and academic libraries; general readers will be richly rewarded by Blum's masterful use of a colorful cast of genuine historical characters set in the majestic northwestern wilderness. [See Prepub Alert, 11/1/10.]-Nathan E. Bender, Laramie, WY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

After a good deal of thought, Charlie Siringo decided to hang his sign on the new iron bridge spanning Bluff Creek. It would take a bit of doing; he'd need to link chains to the top of the bridge's battlement and then run'em through a couple of holes he'd punch in the corners of the painted board that, to his great delight, had turned out "as pretty as a picture." Sure, Kansas, he'd come to realize, had more than its fair share of weather; on a gusty day the oval- shaped sign would be flaying about. Nevertheless, Charlie was certain. This was the perfect spot. He remembered that two years earlier--two years? It might as well have been in another lifetime--when he'd led the LX outfit and eight hundred fat steers up the Chisholm Trail, the sight of muddy Bluff Creek had filled the worn-out cowboys with excitement and anticipation. It had been a long, slow drive up from the Texas Panhandle during the uncommonly hot summer of 1882, day after day as dry as the piles of bleached chalk-white buffalo bones they saw scattered across the flat plains. Nights took their time coming, but the thin, cool evening whistling through the scrubland was a blessing--for a while. Once they crossed the Red River, the darkness brought new concerns. They were in Indian Territory. Most of the old chiefs had made their peace, but there was always the fear of half- starved Kiowa or Cherokee renegades swooping in from out of the thickening shadows to pick off cattle from the herd, or some ponies from the remuda, and, for good measure, lift a few fresh scalps. But Bluff Creek was the landmark that told the cowboys their ordeal was over. They were coming out of Indian Territory and heading up the end of the trail. Sporting girls, whiskey, and the railroad were only a short, hard ride away in Caldwell. The Santa Fe Railroad had come to Caldwell, Kansas, in 1880, and now that there was a shipping point to the eastern markets days closer to the Texas ranches than either Wichita or Dodge City, Caldwell quickly became a hurrah cow town. The "Queen City of the Border" the cowboys called it. And once the LX outfit got near Bluff Creek, it was as if whoring and drinking and gambling was all anyone could think about. Around the campfire, there was a lot of hot talk about the rattling good time the boys were looking forward to at Mag Wood's celebrated Red Light Saloon. Charlie, too, had every intention of finding himself a bottle of whiskey and a sweetheart to share it. The way he saw it, after more than two dusty months driving a herd, a cowboy had earned himself a howling night. But he was also the trail boss; a leader had a duty to his men to impart a few words of commonsense restraint. Besides, at twenty-seven he was older and more experienced than most of the outfit. He had seen the trouble a fellow could ride into when coming off the range. So as they were heading up on Bluff Creek and the talk was getting pretty feverish, Charlie decided it'd be a good time to tell the hands about the scrape he had gotten into in Dodge City. Excerpted from The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.