After a good deal of thought, Charlie Siringo decided to hang his sign on the new iron bridge spanning Bluff Creek. It would take a bit of doing; he’d need to link chains to the top of the bridge’s battlement and then run’em through a couple of holes he’d punch in the corners of the painted board that, to his great delight, had turned out “as pretty as a picture.” Sure, Kansas, he’d come to realize, had more than its fair share of weather; on a gusty day the oval- shaped sign would be flaying about. Nevertheless, Charlie was certain. This was the perfect spot.
He remembered that two years earlier—two years? It might as well have been in another lifetime—when he’d led the LX outfit and eight hundred fat steers up the Chisholm Trail, the sight of muddy Bluff Creek had filled the worn-out cowboys with excitement and anticipation. It had been a long, slow drive up from the Texas Panhandle during the uncommonly hot summer of 1882, day after day as dry as the piles of bleached chalk-white buffalo bones they saw scattered across the flat plains. Nights took their time coming, but the thin, cool evening whistling through the scrubland was a blessing—for a while. Once they crossed the Red River, the darkness brought new concerns. They were in Indian Territory. Most of the old chiefs had made their peace, but there was always the fear of half- starved Kiowa or Cherokee renegades swooping in from out of the thickening shadows to pick off cattle from the herd, or some ponies from the remuda, and, for good measure, lift a few fresh scalps. But Bluff Creek was the landmark that told the cowboys their ordeal was over. They were coming out of Indian Territory and heading up the end of the trail. Sporting girls, whiskey, and the railroad were only a short, hard ride away in Caldwell.
The Santa Fe Railroad had come to Caldwell, Kansas, in 1880, and now that there was a shipping point to the eastern markets days closer to the Texas ranches than either Wichita or Dodge City, Caldwell quickly became a hurrah cow town. The “Queen City of the Border” the cowboys called it. And once the LX outfit got near Bluff Creek, it was as if whoring and drinking and gambling was all anyone could think about. Around the campfire, there was a lot of hot talk about the rattling good time the boys were looking forward to at Mag Wood’s celebrated Red Light Saloon.
Charlie, too, had every intention of finding himself a bottle of whiskey and a sweetheart to share it. The way he saw it, after more than two dusty months driving a herd, a cowboy had earned himself a howling night. But he was also the trail boss; a leader had a duty to his men to impart a few words of commonsense restraint. Besides, at twenty-seven he was older and more experienced than most of the outfit. He had seen the trouble a fellow could ride into when coming off the range. So as they were heading up on Bluff Creek and the talk was getting pretty feverish, Charlie decided it’d be a good time to tell the hands about the scrape he had gotten into
in Dodge City.
Excerpted from The Floor of Heaven by Howard Blum. Copyright © 2011 by Howard Blum. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“Dramatic and colorful with touches of humor and poignancy, The Floor of Heaven has the spark of a television miniseries and the depth of a novel. That Blum’s tale of adventure is tall but true makes it all the more enjoyable, particularly because its heartbeat is so keenly American.”
“Highly enjoyable…a narrative history set before, during and just after the [Yukon gold] rush. Blum traces the lives of three storied men – a prospector, a cowboy turned Pinkerton detective and a notorious conman – whose fates intersected over a stash of gold...It must have been a daunting task wrangling all these conflicting stories into a single, seamless tale, but you never feel that effort on a single page of this unabashedly entertaining book.”
“True Grit meets Call of the Wild. That’s the skinny on Howard Blum’s Floor of Heaven, a big sprawling book that pairs colorful cowboys and ornery thieves with noble Indians and the kinds of hardworking prospectors found in Jack London’s tales of the Yukon…Blum’s characters have undeniable folksy charm and ‘grit’…and it doesn’t take much effort to imagine them in a movie. The Floor of Heaven has the benchmarks of a bestseller.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“There is no doubt that all three of Mr. Blum’s main subjects led fascinating lives…Mr. Blum skillfully intercuts [his story’s] plotlines, building momentum toward his big finish…entertaining.”
–Wall Street Journal
“Packed with larger-than-life characters straight out of a John Ford western…a rich tale…entertaining.”
“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 bestselling 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 (Starred Review)
"Wildly compelling...a truly memorable frontier tale."
“A fascinating story…Detailing crimes perpetrated and solved, relationships both happy and tragic, hardships unthinkable in the modern age, and the cold, magical allure of Alaska and the Yukon, Blum captures the spirit and mood of the last of the Old West. The final pages, especially, are filled with drama and a strange yearning…a huge success.”
–Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A tense, exciting tale filled with colorful characters.” –Booklist
"Wonderfully original. This narrative about the Alaskan gold rush has everything but Charlie Chaplin. Resurrecting three of the giant figures of the time -- a cowboy detective, a genius con artist and the luckiest bastard in the Yukon -- Blum laces together a grand string of adventures (all the more impressive for being true) that take us deep into the glory hole and the transforming power of greed."
–Pope Brock, New York Times bestselling author of Charlatan
“Brings to life the frenzy of the Yukon Gold Rush that opened Alaska, bringing with it fabulous wealth for a few, the violent lawlessness of the lower Wild West, and a breed of charlatan that fiction could not invent. From a virtual mother lode of unmined material, Blum casts a narrative that both informs and entertains as he forges the image of the wild days of the last American frontier.”
–William C. Davis, author of the Pulitzer-nominated Battle of Bull Run and also Three Roads to the Alamo and Lone Star Rising
“Howard Blum has taken a whole handful of good yarns, and has woven them into a tapestry of adventure, cattle drives, manhunts, bonanzas, greed, gunslinging, saloon brawls and heists, and of schemers and dreamers who became legends in their time. A novelist could hardly make up such characters, but these were real men. Blum has worked as hard as a sourdough prospector to mine their memoirs, letters and scrapbooks, to trace their interwoven biographies and write a vivid, amazingly plotted narrative that's like spun gold.”
–James Alexander Thom, author of the national bestseller Follow the River and From Sea to Shining Sea
"Hold on to your seats! Howard Blum has thrown us a thunderbolt of a tale about three adventurers scrambling to experience the untamed life on the American frontier before it vanishes. The Floor of Heaven is a full-gallop epic of fortune-seeking and betrayal that leaves you pondering the high price we pay for both domesticity and freedom."
–Scott Zesch, author of The Captured
"The Floor of Heaven will make a great movie--that goes without saying, since it's by master storyteller Howard Blum. But it's more than that: the best kind of reading experience, where the reader is transported to another time and place and is soon caught up in a glorious adventure. It's the spellbinding tale of three fascinating characters--a lawman, a con man, and a prospector--set against the background of one of the most alluring eras in American history, the Yukon Gold Rush. This is a great, untold story of daring men involved in a dangerous and exciting enterprise: the taming of a lawless land."
–Jim Donovan, author of Custer and the Little Bighorn