The Richest Hill on Earth

Richard S. Wheeler, Foreword by
Richard S. Wheeler. Tor/Forge, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2816-8
Reviewed on: 10/10/2011
Release date: 12/06/2011
Hardcover - 438 pages - 978-1-61173-271-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 401 pages - 978-0-7653-6643-6
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-8626-7
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The mine shaft and courtroom clashes of Butte, Mont.’s copper kings form the backdrop of the initially engaging latest from veteran western novelist Wheeler (Snowbound). In 1892, Butte sits on top of some of the world’s richest mineral deposits, and three men vie to control its wealth: Marcus Daly, who employs only fellow Irish to work in his mines; William Andrews Clark, who insists on being called “Senator” even before he’s bribed his way into office; and F. Augustus Heinze, who exploits mining laws to steal ore. They fuel their feuds with competing newspapers, and Clark hires splashy eastern journalist John Fellows Hall to run his propaganda sheet. His journalistic integrity quickly squashed, Hall transforms the paper into a bestselling scandal sheet, full of gossip, murdered prostitutes, and the predictions of a local psychic. Meanwhile, newly widowed Alice Brophy takes a job rather than another husband, discovers socialism, and becomes a notorious labor agitator. The first half of Wheeler’s novel is lively and fascinating, with the riveting “Red Alice” crying out for a novel of her own. But as the story progresses, characters are sidelined and the narrative loses momentum. The fate of this hill is finally determined miles from Butte, in plodding passages far removed from the novel’s promising beginning. (Dec.)
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