“NO FOOL'S GOLD”
by Jack Petersen, 2015
Nominally a sequel to Petersen's “Gold Camp”, this is the tale of an old time gold miner, up in the hills for years, trying to find that lucky strike. However, he's doing this in the present day.
Zeb Bartholomew is a throwback to an earlier era, when lone prospectors eked out a living up in the hills, only laying eyes on civilization once or twice a year. But the times they are a-changing, and modern mining corporations, with satellite technology, see just how valuable Zeb's claim is. And they want it for themselves.
I thought a better explanation could be given for the legal difference between owning a piece of land and having a claim to it. A miner can lay claim to all the gold or other minerals in a spot of land without having to buy it, and that is what Zeb does. It's also why he has to worry about claim jumpers—he has very little protection from the law since he has no ownership of the land he mines.
What follows is a tale of a miner versus claim jumpers, a rustic old coot against modern, tech-savvy hoodlums. Ultimately, it's a battle between those who know their environment and those that rely on guns. It's a bit hard to imagine these thugs packing anything but semi-automatics, probably 9mm Glocks. Conveniently, they have six-shot revolvers, at least at first.
Unlike Petersen's previous “Gold” book, this story is not quite as lively or engaging. Also, the characters are not as likeable. When trouble starts, Zeb starts it!
A few times there are blocks of exposition that would be more lively if presented as dialog. But it doesn't happen so often as to ruin the book. There are a few scattered misspellings, but not many. 'Door mouse' for 'dormouse' being perhaps the most amusing.
But it's still interesting and it's fun to watch good old Zeb and the city-slickers trying to outsmart one another. Jack Petersen understands that adventures should be about good guys and bad guys, but that both of them should be made human and believable. Zeb is a feisty old bird who we can root for but he's also cantankerous and ready to resort to dirty tricks. His adversaries are murderous and ready to cut each other's throats, but slivers of decency do come to the surface. Just not very often. The final conflict is intense and downright brutal.