Archive for June 17th, 2012

June 17th, 2012

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

by Gwen

The Floor of Heaven

Three men collide in the Yukon.
*A cowboy, still grieving the loss of his wife, searching for new frontiers now that the west has been won joins the Pinkerton Agency.
*An orphaned Navy deserter, hoping to do what his father couldn’t do, becomes an Indian in the process.
*The King of Con Men, looking for a town big enough for it to be worth his while, fleeces everyone and anyone on his way there.

There is a story in my family that no one still living has really ever bothered to investigate. Supposedly, my great-great-grandmother, a widow, drug my very young great-grandmother up to the Klondike to run a laundry during the gold rush. Part of me thinks, That’s so cool and the other part of me wonders…. did any women go to a gold rush town and remain, um, just a laundress? You tell me, if you heard this story about one of your grandmothers, would you want to do the research and possibly air some dirty laundry?

Never the less, I have always been curious about what it was like to be searching for gold in such a forbidding place, so I snatched this one up. I didn’t find any family members. What I did find was a compelling story of three vastly different men and how their vastly different lives intersected in Alaska.

Told in a narrative style, The Floor of Heaven kept me turning pages and staying up until the wee hours. The Klondike was filled with hopes, dreams, heartbreak, horrible winters, and unique characters.

Here’s part of the blurb that hooked me….

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.

If you are a fan of narrative non-fiction and want to learn a bit more about the Yukon Gold Rush, this just might be your book. The tension that Blum builds reminded me watching a train wreck; you know it’s coming, but you can’t take your eyes off of the spectacle. I promise, you won’t find any dirty laundry in this one.


The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461735