Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek by Douglas Hirt is billed as a "Western" but now that I've read it I tend to see it more as an historical novel. I suppose all westerns are, in essence, historical novels but in my mind they tend to be more or less confined to the years immediately after the Civil War and on up to the end of the 1880s or so. And they tend to be about cattle drives, the Indian wars, frontier justice and the like, usually with one main hero. Cripple Creek is not really about any of those things but rather about the birth and first six years of the boomtown of Cripple Creek, Colorado.

My family has lived in Colorado Springs off and on for about 17 years, depending on where my military assignments have led us and we've decided to make it our home now that I've retired from my military career. I've known the town of Cripple Creek, nestled up in the mountains to the west, as one of several historic towns in Colorado to be allowed limited gambling. I've always known it had begun as a silver mining town but didn't know the real history of the place. So when I saw this book at the used bookstore I just had to grab it.

The novel itself is an easy read but is a very good novelization of the area in the early 1890s. There are several main characters but chief among them is Casey Daniels, a mining engineer who runs afoul of one of the prominent mine owners of the region. There are quite a few story lines that interact among the many characters, lending a bit of a soap opera feel to the story but what I enjoyed the most was the large numbers of real historical figures. Some play major roles in the novel, including Winfield Scott Stratton, the "Three Jims", and of course, Bob Womack, the first man to discover the riches underneath the mountain. Many historical novels would stop there but in this one every major mine owner, hotel operator, saloon proprietor and whore house madam that plays a role in the story is a genuine historical figure. It was fun to see their names as well as the landmarks and relate them to some of the prominent street names and public buildings that exist today in Colorado Springs.

It occurs to me that while all of these familiar character names makes this a fun novel for me to read, it may have the opposite effect on those who do not live here or know the surrounding area. I noticed several times where we meet people for very brief moments and who have very little impact on the story, almost as if the author just wanted to make sure they made an appearance. That could be a problem for some. But overall I thought it was a nice story, albeit somewhat predictable. The characters were also a bit two dimensional and seemed to come straight out of central casting but something about this novel drew me to it and I definitely wanted to keep on reading, even past my bedtime.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire