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Peggy Farooqi
Mum of 3 (1994, 1995, 1998)- born in East Germany --lived in UK/ Kent since 1993 -- studied criminology -- love reading / writing / travelling / needlecraft 
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14 December 2014




Title
Silver Kings and Sons of Bitches
Author
Michael McGranahan
Publisher
Michael McGranahan
Publication Date
June 2014
Pages
394
Genre
history, novel




Blurb:
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Based on the true story of a man who sacrificed everything for a city - San Francisco - and his dream that it would one day be the most beautiful city in the world...and all for the love of a woman.

The year is 1854 and William Ralston’s fiancée has just died. She, the granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, was to help Ralston transform the squalid Gold Rush town into a beautiful, modern city; now, alone, he will take up the quest in her memory. When the Comstock Lode is discovered, the dream seems suddenly plausible: Ralston, a banker, will funnel the wealth of the silver mines into his fledgling city - build magnificent theaters, hotels, museums, and finance businesses.

Jessalyn Ohhlson (Jessie) is a prostitute with a startling characteristic: she bears an uncanny resemblance to Ralston's deceased fiancée. Ralston, entranced, finds her irresistible. Finnian Gillespie, an Irish street fighter, has seen Jessie, and he too is smitten. Soon the star-crossed lovers will be swept up in Ralston’s grand scheme, and with dire consequences, while the true identity of Jessie remains a mystery to both men.

Prussian immigrant Adolph Sutro wants to help Ralston; he proposes to build a four-mile auxiliary tunnel beneath the Comstock. Ralston, however, sees Sutro, and his tunnel, as a threat. Thus begins a decade-long battle, a battle that Ralston, the most powerful banker in California, should easily win. Except that Sutro proves to be very resourceful and incredibly stubborn. The battle rages from California to Washington D.C., and even Europe, while the fate of San Francisco, and innocent lives, awaits the outcome.


My review:  
 I like a book is that it teaches me something without having to read an academic book and is very entertaining at the same time. McGranahan has taken real events and people from history and told us their story. He keeping pretty much close to the original stories  (I've looked it up as I became interested in the subject whilst reading) and has interwoven it with fictional characters whose story would have been typical of the time and place. 

What I liked here is that the author introduces us to a time in history which is not very well known and not extensively covered (at least not to my knowledge). The time is mid 1800's and the place is San Francisco and the side of the Cromstock Lodge Silver Mines in Nevada. The gold and silver rush - what a fascinating time in history that must have been. There was money to be made, there were the banks who had to hold all the deposits, the engineers who planned and build the mines and of course the common people who worked in the mines and made the new towns which sprang up. This is what this book is all about.

The book is essentially the story of several characters, and all of them are beautifully drawn and very distinct. Firstly, there is banker William Ralston. I didn't actually take to him too much, though I can understand the pressures he was under. But he was just a tiny bit to sly for me to really feel for him. Than there is Finn Gillespie, Irish street fighter and later helping with the mine. Both his and banker Ralston's life are intertwined with Jess who has a few secrets of her own. My favourite character was Prussian engineer Adolph Sutro with his heavy German accent (I could actually 'hear' him talking). Gutsy and enterprising, he didn't give up in his dream to build a tunnel to reach the mines. I think we need more people like this today. Don't forget to read the appendix which tells us a bit about the characters and their real-life counterparts. 

Anything I didn't like? I think I would have chosen a different title...

The story flows easily and never stalls. I'm glad I picked this book up, a very entertaining and educating read. 



About the author:  


Michael McGranahan was born in San Diego and earned degrees in the earth sciences from San Diego State and Stanford Universities. He now divides his time between Modesto and Santa Cruz, California. Silver Kings & Sons of Bitches is his first novel.