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After the Gold Rush — July Chapter Roundup
Thanks for being a subscriber to After the Gold Rush! This is your once-a-month new chapter roundup: Chapters 20-26 went up in July.
You can read the book from the beginning, in order, here:
New chapters for July:
Chapter 21 - Ted & Anna Judah, Senator William Gwin, and the Transcontinental Railroad
Chapter 22 - Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, General Mariano Vallejo: The Squatters and the Don
Chapter 23 - Mary Ellen Pleasant, Lizzie Ralston, William Ralston—La Plaçage
Chapter 24 - Bohemians Rising: Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte, Philip Alexander Bell, Emperor Norton
Chapter 25 - Ted & Anna Judah and Doc Strong find The Route
Chapter 26 - The Election of Lincoln—Mary Ellen Pleasant and the Executive Committee
New chapters will post weekly in August on the After the Gold Rush website (As a free subscriber you will NOT get weekly emails. I don’t want to crowd anyone’s inbox!).
Notes on the After the Gold Rush project:
I’m finally getting my bearings on Substack and feeling out how best to use this platform for this book and historical resource.
For those of you who don’t know, I studied history at Berkeley but I’ve primarily made my adult living as a crime fiction author and screenwriter. I began this true history book when I started reading U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction history during lockdown—something I was compelled to do because it seems very much to me that we’re currently fighting the same toxic battles that never got resolved after the Civil War.
As I worked my way through hundreds of books and documents, I naturally gravitated toward events and personalities of California —and fell completely in love with the intertwined stories of the rise of San Francisco in the 1860’s and the unique characters (most assuredly not just straight white men!) who built the city, lost it in the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, and then miraculously rebuilt it, better than ever, in record time.
I realized that despite being a proud and relatively informed native Californian, I had never really known the history of my state after the Mission period and formative Gold Rush (those periods are drilled into every Californian child’s mind!).
And the California history that I was uncovering didn’t just explain the uniqueness of this state— it illuminated the history of the whole United States, in a way I had never understood it before.
As a novelist, it was easy for me to see the material’s potential as historical fiction. I see After the Gold Rush as a series, Book 1 beginning in the late 1850s through 1870; and then covering one decade per book up to the earthquake and rebuild.
But the more I read, the more I realized that instead of writing dialogue and making up scenes, I could use the real words and actions of these amazing people. I realized that I didn’t have to create a story line: the chronology of the real events in the order in which they happened was its own riveting drama. I found that learning the stories of the whole spectrum of people of the time (women, gay, trans, Black, Chinese, Mexican, Native American) allowed me to see and retain history much more deeply that any textbook could impart. I became convinced that the source documents—the personal letters, novels, poetry, songs, news articles and so much more—written by the people of the time—told the story of California better than any novelist (let alone me!) could possibly capture.
And that’s a bigger project than a book or a series. It requires a more interactive platform that allows the reader to click through to the original documents, photos, songs, paintings, news articles—a platform that enables the reader to instantly access those source materials and go down their own rabbit holes of history if they choose.
But that mission is going to take not just years—it will require decades (especially because I still work as a novelist!). And we as a country don’t have any time to lose. We all need to be countering the horrific ongoing agenda of white supremacists in a frightening number of U.S. states to rewrite the true history of the U.S. and whitewash the atrocities of slavery, systemic racism, and misogyny. We need to do it NOW. We need to be learning our own history in all its complexity, and teaching it NOW. We need to be fighting the book bans and anti-education legislation NOW.
So as I continue to rewrite the first book for publication, I’m also putting chapters and supplemental material here, online, NOW. I can post photos and links and discussion of parallel current events, and have the flexibility to go back into chapters and add material that I’m continuing to discover.
Plus, subscription publishing makes sense for a series featuring Mark Twain as a major (and unforgettable!) character: Twain began his often rocky career as a novelist by publishing his books by subscription.
I’ll sign off by saying I would very much appreciate feedback—your suggestions, requests, corrections, observations—either by direct email or using the comment button below.
And again, thanks for being here!
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Previous published chapters:
Chapter 1 - Phoebe Apperson & George Hearst
Chapter 2 - Mary Ellen Pleasant
Chapter 3 - Bret Harte
Chapter 4 - Ina Coolbrith
Chapter 5 - Maria Amparo Ruiz
Chapter 6 - The Journey
Chapter 7 - Adolph Sutro
Chapter 8 - Charlie Stoddard
Chapter 9 - Theodore & Anna Judah
Chapter 10 - The Duel (Senator David Broderick, Judge David Terry)
Chapter 11 - Emperor Norton
Chapter 12 - The de Youngs
Chapter 13 - Mary Ellen Pleasant, Selim Woodworth, William Ralston, Milton Latham
Chapter 14 - General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton
Chapter 15 - Theodore & Anna Judah
Chapter 16 - Mary Ellen Pleasant, Lisette Flohr
Chapter 17 - Adolph Sutro
Chapter 18 - Mary Ellen Pleasant, The Executive Committee
Chapter 19 - Jessie Benton Frémont, Bret Harte, Thomas Starr King
New chapters moving int 1861 will post weekly in August! As a free subscriber you will NOT get weekly emails—I don’t want to flood anyone’s inbox. Check the After the Gold Rush website or Substack Notes for updates if you don’t want to wait a month for the next email roundup.