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I was really excited about buying this title. Charles Siringo is a fascinating character, and because all my knowledge of the Yukon gold rush comes from Jack London, I was eagerly looking forward to learning about the actual history and people involved. I bought the book without listening to the sample, a mistake I won't make again.
I will admit I couldn't finish this book, made it through 3/4s of it and gave up. I found Blum's style excruciating. I can only say that he nearly rivals Franklin W. Dixon's powers of description and character development, but not quite. In fact, my history teacher wife overheard some of the book and thought I was listening to a badly written young adult thriller. It's that bad. I'd give some examples of the horribly awkward analogies, but I can't stand to go back and listen again. (I picked up on the "walrus locomotives" one of the other critical reviewers caught, though I thought it just bad writing and the other reviewer points out it's a bad fact, that walruses don't even live in that area). There's stuff that's just wrong. The author states that after the first frost the ground will be iron hard. If you've ever lived with winter, there's quite a long period between the first frost and the ground freezing solidly, and unless you're in permafrost, the ground only will freeze a few feet deep, so you won't need to build a fire at the bottom of a deep shaft to thaw the earth there. I could go on and on, but several Alaskans have reviewed the book and done a fine job of pointing out some of the many mistakes and factual errors in the book. Their reviews are well worth reading before you buy.
I am intensely offended by a book which claims to be a true story and isn't! We're dumb enough as a society without being misled by lazy, slapdash writers. If you're writing about the Yukon gold rush, or a fascinating character like Siringo and you aren't imaginative enough tell an exciting story without using distortions and fabrications, you should be writing some vacuous potboiler. Plenty of people will enjoy it, and no one will mistakenly think they are learning anything.
This book does a real and inexcusable disservice to the legacy of Charles Siringo. Inexcusable, because even the smallest amount of research shows him to be a far more intelligent, complex, and interesting character than can be imagined by his portrayal in the "Floor of Heaven". Prior to joining the Pinkerton agency, Siringo had already written an extremely popular book about his experiences as a cowboy. He joined the Pinkertons out of his deeply held political concerns with the growing Anarchist movement, spent undercover time with the Hole in the Wall gang, defended Clarance Darrow from a mob, was present at much of the terrible anti-union strife in the western mines, and ended up writing several more books, one of which was a scathing condemnation of the tactics of both the Pinkerton agency and the union organizations. In Blum's book he comes across as a drunken, whale shooting dolt, casually selling liquor to the Native tribes when it forwards his own narrow ends. I'm not saying I think Siringo was a good guy, (I don't know, and can't trust any facts in this book), but he is a character who should be easy to mine for literary gold, and all Blum manages to pan from the such rich history is a little gravel and horse manure. And that's not even addressing the other two main characters.
I gave the reader an extra star. He was laboring under a heavy burden and I respect him for getting all the way through.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Just finished up Howard Blum’s newest release, The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush. This is a nonfiction Western that is a wonderful read. Along the way the reader is informed about the Yukon Gold Rush, how it worked, and how people lived in that time. The story is very interesting and Howard Blum’s narrative is exciting and rich with insight. The era comes alive from the very beginning. At the heart of the book is the gold rush of the late 1800s tied together through the stories of a Marine Corps deserted (George Carmack), a real life con man (Soapy Smith), and a cowboy who stumbles into becoming a Pinkerton (Charlies Siningo). If you have an interest in this era and would like to have some sugar to make the medicine go down, Howard Blum’s telling of this story is your Rx. The reading of John H. Mayer is excellent.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful