So you can read my books

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, during the gold rush, 1851
{Image in Public Domain}

I. Some Sins Never Let Go

I smiled sadly. Young Sammy was all eyes as he walked the dirt sidewalk of the Barbary Coast.  His gait was that odd shuffle that stayed with him all his days.  

At sixteen, it gave him the odd appearance of old age.  When old that shuffle would grant him the illusion of youth.  It fit the tangle of contradictions that was the boy who would grow to become Mark Twain.

Sammy smiled, "Did the editor of the San Francisco Herald really promise to make me a reporter?"

"Yes.  If I brought the murderer of its publisher, James King, to justice."

Sammy rubbed his hands together.  "Captain Sam, I am as good as hired!  You're the best lawmen ever."

I studied him.  "Isn't your mother worried about you being shot in this wild town?"


"She trusts me that much?"

"Of course not!  She says any boy destined to hang has nothing to fear from guns."

I smiled wryly.  That sounded like her all right.

 Before the Gold Rush of 1849, there were only a few hundred people living in tents and wooden shanties within San Francisco. 

However after the gold rush the population of San Francisco would increase fifty-fold in just two years—from 492 in 1847 to over 25,000 in 1849. 

That extreme growth combined with a lack of strong government had created many opportunities for criminals, corrupt politicians, and brothel owners.

Sammy's grey-blue eagle eyes widened as he hushed in a breath as we stepped onto the corner of Pacific and Montgomery Streets.

"Welcome to Casa," I said low.

Sammy rasped, "It's like something you'd see in Old New Orleans with those lacy iron terraces."

"There's a Casa there, too.  And in Paris.  And in Los Angeles."


"A small trading post of 250 people about 400 miles south of here.  I own a lot of property there ... as I do here."

Sammy shook his head.  "Lord, I ain't never seen the like."

He arched his head back and took in the night sky. 

 "Yet even with the torches on those balconies, I can still see the constellations shining in their myriad majesty, and moving like an army dressed in silver mail, marching from unknown victories to conquer in distant wars."

Even so young, Sammy still had the Way about him and his words.

The tall Chinese man in the doorway breathed a sigh of relief.  "At last you come, Xian.  Qing Long has crossed the ocean for revenge."

Sammy frowned, "Qing Long?"

"The Azure Dragon," I murmured, feeling as if my sins in the Opium Wars would never stop haunting me.

"Th-That's just a nickname, right?" quavered Sammy.

I shook my head.

Sammy muttered, "Does Los Angeles have a newspaper, Captain Sam?"


  1. A dragon needs to be as they were in Reign of Fire, and as Smaug was in LOTR.

    This excerpt makes me wonder, 'revenge for what'?

  2. He's not afraid of guns - hope he's not afraid of dragons, either.

  3. D.G.:
    The revenge is not for what you might think! This may stay a snippet for a year or so.

    As long as Captain Sam is with him, Sammy is not afraid ... much! :-)

  4. It's hard to imagine that San Francisco had less than 500 people. I had no idea it grew so fast during the Gold Rush. (I lived in the SF Bay for 19 years. I tended to avoid SF, because I don't like the frenetic energy). But viewing the Chinese New Year's Parade is amazing.

    You know I'm always a fan - I hope. Right now, I'm appreciating how you blend non-fiction and fiction so creatively, and in such a way that it doesn't matter what's accurate or not. It's all engaging story.

    Take care, Roland.

  5. Robyn:
    Qing Long will have you know he is very historically accurate. Luckily, he is forgiving of pretty ladies. :-)

    I am toying with putting McCord and young Mark Twain in Los Angeles, too, when both were 250 people or so.

    I am somewhat of a small town fellow myself, staying out of frenetic crowds!

    Your words helped me heal. I have to deal all weekend with a surly, mean spirited, cruel lab tech all weekend. Life is always something, isn't it? I am glad your suicide aftermath cause did so well.