When lumber mills first began sprouting up along the 19th century Mendocino coast, Native Americans were still a constant presence. Many indigenous place names were adopted by settlers and remain with us to this day. Others have faded into obscurity. We know, for instance, that the area now known as Mendocino village was originally called Bool-Dam or Buldam by subgroups of the Northern Pomo. Bool-Dam meant “big holes” and referred to the blowholes on the Mendocino headlands. Early maps created after California statehood refer to Big River as Bool-Dam River. Continue Reading →
At the peak of Lorenzo White’s success his holdings stretched from Oakland to Fort Bragg. He owned stores, ranches, sawmills, hotels, ferries, saloons, restaurants, real estate, a fleet of ships, and several logging railroads. He commanded the attention of powerful politicians statewide and held sway over four California counties. White’s ambition at times seemed limitless and was the driving force in amassing a considerable fortune. So what can we conclude about L. E. White from this jumbled legacy he’s left us? Was he a mean spirited, ruthless villain and thief or a generous benefactor, a savvy businessman, a civic leader, and an all around stand up guy? Continue Reading →
One of the biggest challenges in writing historical fiction is managing the facts. Sometimes those facts are inconveniently arranged. Other times, there is a paucity of information. The former requires careful structuring of the story. The latter, however, presents a perfect opportunity for the historical novelist to exercise a little freedom in shaping the story. To illustrate this point, we’ll look at two real people who appear in my story, how I used reliable facts, and how I invented history for the gaps or stitched seemingly unrelated facts together. Continue Reading →
An author asks himself, “What if a transplanted Easterner taught loggers in 1850s California how to play baseball? Would that be an anachronism?” As it turns out, no. Thanks to Alexander Cartwright, the game of base-ball, a refined form of the older game town ball, spread across the American prairie to California and beyond during the great California Gold Rush. Continue Reading →
August 1 is a banner day for great American sea novels as we celebrate the birthdays of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. and Herman Melville. Both men provided important source information for the nautical aspects of The Relentless Harvest. Melville for his bold American, turn-of-the-century voice and Dana for his remarkable day-to-day accounts of a sailor’s life aboard ship. Both men also raised important questions about the powerless and disenfranchised are echoed in The Relentless Harvest. Continue Reading →
Aleta George spent ten years pouring over newspaper and journal clippings, diaries, literary works, and even Coolbrith’s scrapbook to unearth the quotes, observations and insights that provide an intimate look into the relationships and events that shaped this remarkable woman, one who actively tried to avoid such exposure. It is George’s enthusiasm and affection for Ina Coolbrith and California that gives this biography its vitality and crystal clear resonance. Continue Reading →
Cities are complicated creatures best understood by peeling back the layers of time and sifting through the accumulation of secrets, lost artifacts, and earlier incarnations that might otherwise go unnoticed. Chosen well and presented correctly, such exhumed history excites our curiosity and exposes our imaginations to the gamut of a city’s character and mystery. We become incapable of seeing it through the same eyes again because, no matter which direction we turn or where we look, the voices, the faces, and the stories instantly appear.
In the first part of Chronicles of Old San Francisco, Gael Chandler makes an ambitious attempt to squeeze 240 epic years into a modest 208 pages, and is surprisingly successful with her efforts. Continue Reading →
During the California gold rush in the mid-1800s, Nicaragua provided a reliable shortcut across Central America, but there were a few troubling challenges. Continue Reading →
In this deleted scene from THE RELENTLESS HARVEST, 15 year old Jarod Walsh is stranded in Nicaragua en route to gold rush California. Continue Reading →
My discovery of 19th century African American lithographer and painter Grafton Tyler Brown began with a search for a character for my novel-in-progress. Little did I know I would uncover such an intriguing story about an important and overlooked figure in northwestern art. Little did I know that the story would be found in a book that had yet to be released.
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