This cautionary tale of buried treasure and murder shows how wrong choices lead to tragic results.

Clevenger Gold

THE TRUE STORY OF MURDER AND UNFOUND TREASURE

A debut author follows the dictum “Write what you know” by building a historical novel around an Old West myth from his corner of Utah.

As the title suggests, Swapp’s book centers on a long-buried treasure owned by the cantankerous Samuel Clevenger. The tale opens with two prisoners playing a hand of poker for their lives: “This was a card game of life or death. Each man’s fate was literally at hand. Each man, ever so clearly, knew the gravity of this game of fate.” How did hard-luck cowboy Frank Willson and mulatto ex–cavalry soldier John Johnson end up in this situation? The story flashes back to the two signing on to help Clevenger move with his sickly wife, Charlotte, and their adopted stepdaughter, Jessie, from the Arizona Territory to the Washington Territory in 1886. But Frank and John don’t know what kind of man Clevenger is until it’s too late. After Clevenger’s endless verbal abuse of both men and Jessie, to whom Frank has become attracted, the cowboy says, “I ’bout had enough of that old bastard, Jessie. I ain’t never seen anyone treat a woman so.” Soon thereafter, Clevenger and Charlotte are buried in a shallow grave, and the other three are fugitives, although not terribly smart ones, as they stand out while crossing through Mormon Utah and are soon caught, with John and Frank convicted of murder. Swapp’s meticulous research gives him a sturdy framework for his imagining of how and why this crime occurred and where Clevenger’s gold may still reside. As the author reveals in his introduction: “Although this story is written as historical fiction, the basic facts herein are absolutely accurate to the timeline and locations.” He skillfully alternates between the dangers the travelers faced, such as a perilous ferry ride across a powerful river and a Native American attack, and the safe oases that small settlements offered. Scant descriptions in historical records and publications of the time allow the author to fully develop characters who fit smoothly into his narrative. Swapp has successfully brought alive a little-known piece of Old West history and sweetened it with a potential $1 million in buried loot.

This cautionary tale of buried treasure and murder shows how wrong choices lead to tragic results.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61984-548-0

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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