In 1897, the United States was mired in the worst economic depression that the country had yet endured. So when all the newspapers announced gold was to be found in wildly enriching quantities at the Klondike River region of the Yukon, a mob of economically desperate Americans swarmed north. Within weeks tens of thousands of them were embarking from western ports to throw themselves at some of the harshest terrain on the planet--in winter yet--woefully unprepared, with no experience at all in mining or mountaineering. It was a mass delusion that quickly proved deadly: avalanches, shipwrecks, starvation, murder.
In Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike (Doubleday, 2021), author Brian Castner tells a relentlessly driving story of the gold rush through the individual experiences of the iconic characters who endured it. A young Jack London, who would make his fortune but not in gold. Colonel Samuel Steele, who tried to save the stampeders from themselves. The notorious gangster Soapy Smith, goodtime girls and desperate miners, Skookum Jim, and the hotel entrepreneur Belinda Mulrooney. The unvarnished tale of this mass migration is always striking, revealing the amazing truth of what people will do for a chance to be rich.
Brian Castner is a nonfiction writer, former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, and veteran of the Iraq War. He is also the bestselling author of Disappointment River, All the Ways We Kill and Die, and the war memoir The Long Walk, which was adapted into an opera and named a New York Times Editor’s Pick and Amazon Best Book of the Year. His journalism and essays have appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Esquire, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and on National Public Radio. He is the co-editor of The Road Ahead, a collection of short stories featuring veteran writers, and has twice received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, to cover the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014, and to paddle the 1200 mile Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 2016.
Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.