From the author of Ellis Island (1983) and Century (1981): a dynasty cannonade of characters, catastrophes, and couplings in California. beginning in 1849 and preluding and wrapping-up in a glittery present. Queenpin in the Collingwood clan is Emma, nâ€še de Meyer, who left Germany with Papa Felix for the New World. On board the steamer, she'll meet and become pregnant by a man-on-the-run, young Ohioan Archer Collingwood. (He'd had very good reasons for robbing a bank). Alas, Archer is plucked off to a horrible jail term, and Emma sadly agrees to marry ship's captain Kinsolving. Later, in San Francisco, Papa Felix and his Countess friend found a department store; Emma gives birth to Archer, Jr.; and the daughter of a Manchu princess tries poisoning her rival. From then on it's a crossfire of deaths (mainly violent), births, marriages (Emma has three--one, of course, to Archer, who finally makes it to the sunny shores), tong wars, and feuds (Emma confronts an old enemy while pointing a gun: ""San Francisco's going to be either your kind of town or mine. . .""). Heir follows heir as along the way Jewish, WASP, Chinese, and Spanish elements contribute both bad guys and real good guys. At the close, there's a battle to preserve the family ranch--a small parcel of an enormous communications/industrial/retailing empire. Fat, fast, and forgettable, but reader-friendly.