A Most Wicked Conspiracy by Paul Starobin

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: I should have been a gold miner in the 1900s.

Quick synopsis: The story of how a crooked politician tried to steal the gold right out from miners in Nome, Alaska around 1900.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Gold was literally just sitting around waiting to be found. The process wasn’t necessarily easy, but you didn’t have to dig hundreds of feet into the earth. In fact, you could just go to the beach, literally.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: We tend to forget that senators were not always directly elected. Until 1913, they were appointed by state legislatures which, as we clearly know now, is a recipe for corruption.

My Take: This book should have been boring. Ultimately, it is about a scandal which was not widely publicized, involved people we mostly never hear of, and was settled without any murders or other major outbreaks of violence.

And yet, I loved this book.

Starobin does precisely what you should do when writing about a little-known story in history: get on with it. Starobin sets the stage to understand the main characters and the setting of Nome, Alaska and gets to the story. He doesn’t waste time and focuses on the pivotal points of the story. He explains who someone is and then highlights their attributes in the way they act during this episode in history. His pacing makes what could have been a very humdrum story into something you don’t want to stop reading.

He also points out a few scenarios where American politicians, lawyers, and judges did their jobs because they cared about the country. Well I’ll be damned. It did happen once.

Verdict: This is a fun and easy read. It’s a really well written account of a crazy time in American history.

If You Liked This Try:

  • David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon
  • William Oldfield, Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society
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A Most Wicked Conspiracy by Paul Starobin
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