An account of the epic human tragedy that was the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898, told through the individual experiences of the iconic characters who endured it—including a young Jack London, Colonel Samuel Steele, notorious gangster Soapy Smith, Skookum Jim, and the hotel entrepreneur Belinda Mulrooney.
... compelling account of the Yukon Gold Rush of 1897–98 ... Castner combines oral histories, memoirs, and research to vividly evoke the Yukon Gold Rush through people and nature ... Readers who enjoy history, adventure, and nature writing, and fans of Egan, Candice Millard, and Jack London, will savor this page-turner.
... replete with derring-do, suffering and failure ... Mr. Castner is an engrossing writer, which is apparent in set pieces like those featuring Dietz and the Berrys, but perhaps above all in narrating a thrilling episode in which Jack London pilots his flat-bottomed boat, the Yukon Belle, through the treacherous White Horse Rapids. He is just as skillful in conjuring the social world of the Klondike, especially in his indelible descriptions of the many boomtown settlements—Dyea, Dawson City, Skagway—that sprang up to outfit the stampeders. In these sections the author reveals an unmistakable sympathy for the few female characters who populate the book ... Given the grace of Mr. Castner’s writing, it is all the more disappointing when he occasionally lapses into folksiness ... And Mr. Castner’s insistence on using a variety of then-common racial terms like 'squaw' and 'Negro' is perplexing ... his deployment of such terms seems unnecessary, even gratuitous. Moreover, readers may wish that Mr. Castner had pulled back occasionally from his propulsive storytelling to help his audience discern some meaning in this cavalcade of immiseration, which had played itself out by the middle of 1899. He offers historical perspective only in a brief but provocative afterword, focusing especially on the roles of greed and irrationality in luring so many ... Mr. Castner’s larger point—that the romantic myth of the frontier continues to obscure the human costs of its absorption and exploitation—shines as brightly as a gold nugget in a mountain stream.
Journalist Castner...paints a dramatic and frequently gruesome portrait of the Klondike gold rush ... Castner brings the survivors to vivid life ... Packed with evocative details and colorful personalities, this immersive history captures the tragic consequences of 'gold fever.'