THE RIDGE OF GOLD by James Ambrose Brown


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First published in South Africa (and a best-seller there) this is a kind of poor man's Rich Man, Poor Man in which a horde of fortune hunters descends upon Johannesburg in the late 19th century, looking for gold. It's 1890 as the British frigate The American sets sails from London, bound for South Africa and the gold fields around Johannesburg. On board are Leonard Penlynne, who will be working for a London gold syndicate; the American Walter Gardiner, who has been hired by Penlynne's rival, gruff tycoon Josh Rawlinson; and Rawlinson's lovely daughter Katherine, who is returning to South Africa after having had the finishing touches put on in England. Also on board is the usual cast of thousands--the upright young Scottish doctor, the Welsh mining agitator, the whore-with-the-heart-of-gold, and the street-urchin sibling stowaways: ""Soon, soon,"" the little boy says to his shivering sister, ""in South Africa it will all be different."" And once in Johannesburg, Brown puts them through their expected paces: Gardiner marries Katherine, and he and Josh Rawlinson fight Penlynne for supremacy in the gold mines. When Penlynne's wife is sent to Europe for treatment of sexual frigidity (""There's a man in Vienna. . .a Dr. Freud""), he takes up with the whore-with-the-heart-of-gold. Finally, Gardiner betrays Rawlinson and joins forces with Penlynne to import a Scottish chemist who has developed a wonderful new process to extract gold from ore, using cyanide. Penlynne and Gardiner become fabulously wealthy, but the embittered Rawlinson challenges their patent of the process in a lengthy court battle, and wins. And then dies patriarch, ally in bed. Penlynne makes it up with Dorothy (his now-returned wife) and both he and Gardiner set about building dynasties. Meanwhile, the Cast of thousands takes a breather, at least until the sequel. In all, standard.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's