A British journalist muses on his journey through California Gold Country.
Former Independent chief reporter Boggan (Follow the Money: A Month in the Life of a Ten-Dollar Bill, 2012) first took interest in gold when its value topped $1,000 per ounce in 2008. His work as a journalist led him to interview people who left jobs and families to hunt for gold in California. Most never struck it rich and ended up broke, but Boggan discovered that they “cheerfully…trussed up all sense of reason and kept on digging” anyway. Intrigued by this phenomenon, the author began studying the history of the California Gold Rush and watching the gold market. In 2013, he flew to San Francisco knowing, and fully accepting, that “odds [were] stacked against [him].” Following in the footsteps of a group of forty-niners whose stories he tells alongside his own, Boggan began his adventures at the northern end of California on the Klamath River, marveling at the beauty of the landscape and living in mortal fear of being eaten alive by bears. As historically well-informed as he was about Gold Country, the author had no practical knowledge of how to prospect. He learned as he went along from people like a retired pipe fitter who sold everything to live in an RV and look for gold and a former U.S. Navy Seal who practiced extreme underwater prospecting. Boggan found only a few flakes of gold, which he coveted like “a miser in a mountain cave.” His rewards were far more intangible: experiences with unforgettable people and landscapes and insight into the “malady” that had compelled him to take his journey in the first place. Boggan’s narrative and persona are charming, but they are not quite enough to make up for a story that, in its attempt to cover so much historical and personal ground, is digressive and unevenly paced.
An engaged—but not always engaging—travel/adventure memoir.