Thursday, November 3, 2016

SUN MOUNTAIN -- Richard S. Wheeler

I'm finding myself more and more fascinated with history the older I get. Maybe part of the fascination has to do with the fact that events I lived through, heard on the news, read in the newspaper or saw with my own eyes, have since become history. Looking at what is now history that was once part of my life gives my imagination a boost to move further back, to see events before my time differently than I saw them when I studied history in school. The context of living extends perspective in a way that reading about events as an inexperienced youngster never could.

Now, if the histories had been written by Richard Wheeler it might have been different. A masterful writer of historical fiction, Wheeler creates an illusion for the reader to feel he or she is in fact viewing events as they happened. The period in Sun Mountain was the last third of the 19th century during the silver/gold mining boom and bust of Virginia City, Nevada.
The novel unfolds as the memoir of a fictional character—Henry Stoddard—but involves many actual people, including the young Samuel Clemens and other newsmen at the Territorial Enterprise. The newspaper gave Stoddard, one of its reporters, an ideal platform to observe the wild and fascinating milieu and personalities of the mining community made famous worldwide as The Comstock Lode.

Richard S. Wheeler
With this highly personalized device Wheeler spoons out his vast knowledge of the mining industry, the customs of the day and events great and small, locally, regionally and beyond in such vivid detail he held me spellbound throughout the story.

Had Sun Mountain been part of a course when I was in high school or even college I might have become a history buff much much sooner. 

[for more Friday's Forgotten Books check the links on Patti Abbott's unforgettable blog]


  1. I had forgotten that you mentioned him earlier in the year in relation to his mystery series. I would love to try some of his historical fiction and some of the mysteries. Right now I have a few too many books to read after buying too many at a recent book sale, but I will be on the outlook for his books.

    1. I'm in the same boat, Tracy. Our book sale was last weekend. At 50 cents a hardbound it's easy to get carried away--as I did. I've read several of Richard's historical fictions and his terrific autobiography Accidental Novelist. I reviewed it a couple of years ago, but I think it was before I started posting for FFB. I'll have to dig it up, brush it off and post it again. It's a humdinger!

  2. I like historical non-fiction more than I do the fiction, Mathew. Though I have been known to read historical fiction as the mood strikes. :) I don't know Wheeler's works, but I'm going to take a look.

    I love book sales too. It's too bad that I haven't been to one in ages. Apparently not many around here - though since I'm new to the area, I should keep more of an eye out. My library has a front room where discarded and donated books are for sale but I never seem to have the time to really stop and search. Must make an effort.

    1. Yvette, Richard takes great pains to make sure his fiction is historically accurate. I've just started reading David McCullough's 1776, which reads like fiction. Aside from a fictional character or two, Sun Mountain is a similar approach.

      Sounds as if your library's used book corner is just like ours--same place, too. I donate books there that I can't give to someone personally, and occasionally browse thru to pick up something for 50 cents or so. Library's are wonderful places!