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The Bonanza King

Narrated by: John Keating
Length: 23 hrs and 24 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (76 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The rags-to-riches American frontier tale of an Irish immigrant who outwits, outworks, and outmaneuvers thousands of rivals to take control of Nevada’s Comstock Lode - the rich body of gold and silver so immensely valuable that it changed the destiny of the United States.

Born in 1831, John W. Mackay was a penniless Irish immigrant who came of age in New York City, went to California during the Gold Rush, and mined without much luck for eight years. When he heard of riches found on the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1859, Mackay abandoned his claim and walked a hundred miles to the Comstock Lode in Nevada.

Over the course of the next dozen years, Mackay worked his way up from nothing, thwarting the pernicious “Bank Ring” monopoly to seize control of the most concentrated cache of precious metals ever found on earth, the legendary “Big Bonanza”, a stupendously rich body of gold and silver ore discovered 1,500 feet beneath the streets of Virginia City, the ultimate Old West boomtown. But for the ore to be worth anything it had to be found, claimed, and successfully extracted, each step requiring enormous risk and the creation of an entirely new industry.

Now Gregory Crouch tells Mackay’s amazing story - how he extracted the ore from deep underground and used his vast mining fortune to crush the transatlantic telegraph monopoly of the notorious Jay Gould. When Mackay died in 1902, front-page obituaries in Europe and the United States hailed him as one of the most admired Americans of the age. The Bonanza King is a dazzling tour de force, a riveting history of Virginia City, Nevada, the Comstock Lode, and America itself.

©2018 Gregory Crouch (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

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Stellar narration, biography exemplar!

Narrator John Keating made the experience feel like a bedtime story filled with mystery, adventure and fantasy. The audio sample selected highlights a representative passage of the story, and good as it is, doesn't do justice to Keating's performance.

John Mackay's story comes close to the Horatio Alger rags to riches ideal. Beginning in extreme poverty, he quietly worked his way to fortune that surprisingly came a late in life given the type of work he did. He was a mustang in the military slang sense, becoming a mine superintendent through having started near the very bottom and working two full-time mining jobs on the Comstock Lode for years, always with a workmanlike, sunny disposition.

The author developed context throughout in an entertaining way, explaining details of the Irish Migration, life in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City, early boom years of San Francisco, the emergence of law in a mining town prior to the presence of local government, technological changes in mining methods, the west during the American Civil War, the intercontinental telegraph industry, prominent persons of the time and what it was like to discover the Big Bonanza.

Author Gregory Crouch is a storyteller. His transitions between pivotal moments in Mackay's life are works of art that evoke feelings. Anyone who plans to write a biography might benefit by experiencing the Crouch style. As listeners, we don't spend a high percentage of the 23 hours and 24 minutes with Mackay, yet we continue to feel his presence.

Most of my listening experience was in short bursts while eating, driving, waiting for something and nearly whenever possible. The author, and to a greater extent the narrator, transported me over a one-week period to another time when large fortunes were made and lost continuously.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A Masterpiece! Outstanding Narration!

I can't wait to read his other books! Fabulous storytelling! Oh, why can't history telling be so fascinating all the time for everyone? I could feel the author's breath in my ear. The narration is worthy of an Oscar award!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

This is one of the most interesting books on history that I have read since Undaunted Courage. Truly fascinating. Who knew John Mackay was such an incredible man? The Bill Gates of his age. In an age where most millionaires were despicable, he was a true gentleman. He came from nothing and never forgot it, and always took care of the men that came form nothing too. A really great read.

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Enjoyable history lesson about a great American

This is a very informative and detailed history of the Comstock and how influenced the development of America.

In the first part of the book John Mackey’s story doesn’t seem to be the primary focus, but this changes in the second half of the book.
I really enjoyed learning about John Mackey and the Comstock. John’s story is a testament to hard work and a good character.

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overall a must read

As long as you can look past the few political biases interjected by the author, this is a great "read". We need more John Mackays in this world.

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History of a great mans gold rush success

I give The Bonanza King five out of five stars for the compelling story of John W. Mackay’s rags to riches life. Included is a great narrative on the expansion of the United States and the evolution of California and Nevada, as they became states. The old West is vividly brought to life and strengthened my appreciation for the hardships many of the first settlers faced. The dangers of being a miner and living in the early west are well portrayed and often heart wrenching.
I like how the author not only illustrates the rise of John Mackey from the condition he was born into, but also that of his wife Louise. They are a harrowing pair who persevered, worked hard, and lived fascinating lives. What a wonderful pair to research and feature in a book. I think my favorite observations of the couple and their personal qualities were from General Ulysses S. Grant during his world tour as President of the United States. I agree with the former presidents opinions of John Mackay after learning about his actions to save the mines and livelihood of so many during the disastrous fire that swept through Virginia City.
I’m from Minnesota, but I’ve had the good fortune of traveling to some of the places featured in the book, including: San Francisco, Reno, and Virginia City. I liked connecting my memories of the rugged Sierra Desert Mountains and historic city areas to the history outlined in the book. I enjoyed learning how gold mining claims were made and worked at the beginning of the gold rush. Also how the engineering and trade of mining evolved, and how this influenced United States culture and politics in the 19th century.

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Masterful narration by John Keating

Masterful narration by John Keating of one of the greatest hidden stories of America’s middle history.

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A fantastic story of hard-won American success!

John Mackay’s story is amazing, even more so since it has been all but forgotten. Crouch’s prose brings it vividly to life, and the narration is fantastic as well. A great listen!

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About everything else than the Bonanza King

I thought the story was about the Bonanza King. Instead it is all about misfortunate people before and after him.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful