The Fortunes and Vicissitudes of Stern Whitman

Written by Derek Burnett
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Between 1848 and 1855, the California Gold Rush caused many to emigrate to the West. Two of those opportunists were Stern Whitman and his younger brother Johnny, partners in a mine located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When a fellow miner is murdered by an unknown assailant, Stern volunteers to travel to the nearest town, Placerville, locate the local judge and bring him back to camp to adjudicate the crime. Traveling along with Stern is a young Blackfoot woman with whom he falls in love and a strange fellow miner, Stormy Issac Ford. They also meet up and rescue a preacher and his wife from an Indian attack.

Although this is a work of fiction, the author’s portrayal of the Gold Rush, with its cast of unusual characters and a likeable protagonist, provides a fascinating panorama of the West. Stern Whitman is interesting because his changes in behavior makes his character three-dimensional as he adjusts to each situation. The book is well-written and well-researched, especially when depicting the various mining procedures and descriptions of the terrain. The author also adds depth and life to each character, making all the major characters well-formed and credible. I look forward to future Derek Burnett novels.