The Floor of Heaven

  • by Howard Blum
  • Narrated by John H. Mayer
  • 16 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

“Full of suspense…an amazing real-life adventure story, peopled with characters that any novelist would be proud to have invented: first-rate entertainment. (Michael Korda, New York Times best-selling author of Hero, With Wings Like Eagles, and Ike)
“In the tradition of great history as great literature…highly recommended…readers will be richly rewarded by Blum’s masterful use of a colorful cast of genuine historical characters set in the majestic northwestern wilderness.” (Library Journal)
"Wildly compelling...a truly memorable frontier tale."(Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A major disappointment

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.


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- Joshua

An Entertaining History

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.
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- Lynn

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-26-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio