“When the first train arrived near the mines at the top of the hill, the town held a big celebration, and when the whistle blew a horse had bolted down Main Street with its wagon, scattering children and the men making speeches.”
Chapter 1, The Second Promise.
If you followed what I call the 2010 Texas Chainsaw Massacre of History, you are painfully aware that the “facts” in school history books consist of a series of choices by the people then in power. In Texas in 2010, Republican Christians are powerful. So children will learn less about Thomas Jefferson, an atheist who practically invented American democracy, and more about Ronald Reagan, a Christian Republican who actually believed that rich people’s money would somehow trickle down to the poor.
The historian Howard Zinn flipped the usual approach. In his ground-breaking “A People’s History of the United States”, he challenged us to broaden our view of history, examining not only presidents and captains of industry, but the Americans massacred, marginalized, exploited and run over by the juggernaut of American capitalism and enterprise.
When I decided to write a historical adventure novel, I made my own choices about who’s important. “The Second Promise” is about Cali Leung, a Chinese-American girl who grew up in the mining towns of the wild West. Cali is a fictional character, but some of the people she meets existed in real life. It was fun to write these real people into “The Second Promise”. And it was fun to include real events, too.
For instance, there really was a railroad built to carry lumber up to Bodie and its mines, and there really was a town celebration when the line was completed in 1881.
But did the train whistle blow during the ceremony, and did a horse and wagon really bolt down Main Street? Some history books say yes, some don’t mention it. I don’t care if it’s true or not. I love to picture the important men, in the middle of making their grandiose speeches, dashing pell-mell off their make-shift podium to the safety of the boardwalk.
Cali Leung is neither rich nor famous, but I hope readers will enjoy accompanying her on her fictional journey through real 19th Century California to find her father.