The Floor Of Heaven: A True Tale Of The Last Frontier And The Yukon Gold Rush

Hardcover | August 22, 2013

byHoward Blum

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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.
 

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From the Publisher

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 fr...

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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Format:HardcoverDimensions:432 pages, 9.55 × 6.48 × 1.34 inPublished:August 22, 2013Publisher:Crown Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307461726

ISBN - 13:9780307461728

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fact is Better Than Fiction in the Page-Turner of History Reason for Reading: I've never consciously thought about this before but I do seem to have a penchant for reading about the Klondike/Yukon gold rush. I'm even reading aloud a fiction book to my son on the topic at this moment! This was a must read for me. This is a true story told in narrative form which really reads like a novel and thus a quick page-turner. The book focuses in on three people: George Carmack, AWOL Marine who "ignites" the biggest gold rush the world has seen; Soapy Smith, conman, bamboozler, thief and murderer who starts off by taking control of Denver's underworld but eventually end's up in Alaska running the lawless boom town of Skagway; and finally, Charlie Siringo, a former cowhand turned Pinkerton detective who is sent to Alaska to solve a crime no other has been able to solve and Pinkerton's name itself is on the line. The book of course is about the gold rush but it is first and foremost about these three men. The narrative shifts from one to the other telling their stories in detail from early adulthood until they all end up in various parts of Alaska, making each others acquaintance, though never on friendly terms. The book concentrates on the American side of the story, all three men have eventful lives in the States before they head North. Main events are centered in Skagway, Dyea and Juneau. It isn't until quite close to the end of the book that the story crosses over into Canadian land and the actual accumulation of gold in the Bonanza Creek. This book is more about the getting there, the life the prospectors lead, the mindset of these people and specifically the lives of the three main characters. A truly brilliant, riveting read that would make a great novel if it weren't all true! A fascinating time in history when the lust for gold took over man's sense of reason and turned a barren land into a small collection of roaring last stop boom towns. I have of course previously read all about Skagway and also Soapy Smith as well as a bit about George Carmack but only in the context of the gold rush. Finding out about their backgrounds was fascinating and made for great reading. Charlie Siringo was relatively new to me, I've heard him mentioned briefly, but his fascinating story was fresh. A great read for anyone interested in the harsh, rough and tumble life of the gold rush days, whether you've read much on the topic before or not. The narrative story telling voice is so captivating to read that I am very interested in reading more of Mr. Blum's previous works. He has a very interesting backlist!
Date published: 2011-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from From the Wild West to the Untamed Frontier Being a genealogist and family historian, any book that takes people in history and attempts to tell their stories, from their perspective, is one that I want to read. The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum immediately caught my eye. Having been to the base of the Chilkoot Trail and seen the Slide Cemetery and Dyea, to read about some of the characters who lived and fought for survival in these very places was amazing. The Floor of Heaven follows three historical figures up to and during the Yukon Gold Rush. George Carmack is the one who started the frenzy and made the biggest gold strike in American history. Charlie Siringo, a cowboy-detective, became best known for solving difficult and perplexing cases. Soapy Smith was a con-man gang leader who bamboozled his way to fortune and infamy. Without giving anything away, to see how and when these three figures merge and how the author treats it within the overall story was positively brilliant. I would love to say so much more, but you will have to read for yourself – let me just say that you simply won’t believe it! At times, the story introduced more characters and details about them than was necessary. I especially found the amount of background information given about characters that only make a quick cameo appearances in the overall story to be overwhelming. The book has given me a greater curiosity about the Yukon Gold Rush and I am looking forward to finding out about some of the major Canadian players and how they interacted with Carmack, Siringo and Soapy Smith. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. I received this book free from Crown Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Date published: 2011-03-31

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Read from the Book

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 intoin Dodge City.