A "riveting . . . sweeping epic" of one man driven by gold fever, by the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of North and South (Richmond Times-Dispatch). At the height of California's Gold Rush, men left everything behind for the chance at striking it rich. Now, some thirty years after its peak, gold fever still entices adventurous Easterners like James Macklin Chance, a poor Pennsylvanian who is drawn to California by the dream of lasting wealth--a dream so powerful he'll stop at nothing to see it through. Along the way he'll encounter grand passion, ruthless enemies, and larger-than-life titans like Leland Stanford, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Randolph Hearst, who helped shape a country's destiny. "The best historical novelist of our time" (Patricia Cornwell) once again spins a sweeping tale of power and passion, as he did so masterfully in the Crown Family Saga, the Kent Family Chronicles, and the North and South trilogy. This ebook features an illustrated biography of John Jakes including rare images from the author's personal collection.
Mack's fortunes continue up and down as his drive and temper finally upset the movers and shakers of San Francisco and after surviving a vicious beating he leaves for Los Angeles to take old traveling companion J. Paul Wyatt up on his offer to join in with him in the "real estate" market -- selling worthless lots to unsuspecting tourists. The land boom busts (where did Wyatt originally get the funds to purchase the land from?) and the unstable Wyatt leaves Mack high and dry with creditors and angry buyers knocking at his doors. Seeing potential in the worthless tar pits of the surrounding countryside Mack seeks employment with the oil prospectors as he learns the trade - finally striking black gold and setting him on his way to fortune and power.
Despite their lifelong love for each other, Mack and Nellie's goals for their individual futures are too diverse for marriage (at least they think so) and Mack marries alcoholic Carla Hellman, daughter of wealthy land baron Swampy Hellman. It doesn't take Mack long to realize the mistake he's made, although grateful for the son Carla gives him. Mack continues to expand his business prospects, delving into real estate, agriculture, the burgeoning Hollywood film industry and these enterprises eventually lead him into increasingly dangerous conflicts with corrupt government officials and the growing labor unions.
Mack's story takes the reader from 1886 California and on into the early 1900's, as California struggles with the old and the new ways, including the catastrophe of the 1906 earthquake that results in a profound personal loss for Mack that forever changes his perspectives on life. As Mack assembles his great fortune, he finally realizes the empty shell his life has become and how little happiness all that wealth can bring without loved ones to share it with. All in all a very good (but not great) read, although IMO Jakes tried to stuff way too much into the story and had Mack's business enterprises spread into way too many pies - I have to confess my eyes glazed over a bit at times - especially the complicated mechanics of getting that oil out of the ground. Four stars, although tops with me on big old fat sagas of Old California is still Celeste De Blasis' The Proud Breed.
On his journey to success, Mack invests money in real estate, oil, citrus groves, silent movies, and even airplanes. He experiences the love of three women, encounters personal as well as professional enemies, and advocates for minorities. He experiences the love, turmoil and loss of raising a son and he battles his own beasts of depression and alcoholism. This book is yet another example of historical fiction at its best.