CALIFORNIA by Leland F. Cooley


Email this review


A sizable spread of ponderous saga set in California, 1830s to 1960s, featuring three strong men who make their own way to turn the Golden land into a sea of greenbacks. Eastern sometime-sailor John Lewis jumps ship in 1838 off the coast of Monterey, hoping to reach the renegade outpost of Isaac Graham's semi-outlaw camp. But, roped and tied by foreigner-hating Goyo Robles and eventually rescued, Lewis will wind up as a spy for some merchant-princes and for Mexican governor Juan Alvarez--keeping an eye on that rash big-dreamer Johann Sutter, who, through his settlement of New Helvetia, has plans to control the whole West Coast. So, before the US invasion of Mexican territories, there'll be a tangle of uneasy alliances among Mexican officials and the military, along with streams of American immigrants and gold-rumors at Sutter's Mill. Meanwhile, Lewis has married Goyo's sister Maria; the family settles in Yerba Buena (San Francisco), where Lewis begins a successful career in the warehousing business. Lewis' son Steven is soon the one who foresees the promise of southern California--forging ahead on borrowed capital to go into partnership with Emilio Garcia y Perez, irrigating and sub-dividing Perez land into ranchitos, and marrying sexy religious-fanatic Arlene. (Steven's best friend, Arlene's lover, will be murdered and mutilated by a bandit leader who is. . . none other than Uncle Goyo.) And Steven's heyday will see happy marriage #2, the completion of the transcontinental railroad, San Francisco bank panics, racial riots and massacres, hordes of immigrants, and an immense land boom. The third man of destiny? Howard D. (""Howdy"") Goodwyn from Oklahoma, first seen hitching into Depression California with his guitar--who makes it big as star of radio and film but ends up a don of agribusiness, married to women descended from Steven's two marriages. Despite the vast time-frame: dull, heavy-footed dynasty fare, with stolid men and invisible women--and in every way inferior to Catherine Gavin's California epic The Sunset Dream (p. 458).

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1984
Publisher: Stein & Day