THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND
A Novel of Old Montana and the Creation of Yellowstone Park
By Robert C. Bartsch
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From tyrannized foreign lands, broken armies, ruined dreams and religious persecution they came, allured by the freedom of an untrammeled land and gold in the gulches. Here a man could strike it rich, then lose it all to murdering highwaymen or find his scalp decorating a warrior’s shield. Follow this group, almost a family, in their quests for fame and fortune over a decade long quest to explore the trapper’s world of boiling rivers and glass mountains—the world of the great Jim Bridger that finally led to the quest to preserve its wonders for unborn generations. Historical novels generally herald the lives of heroes with superhuman feats and success beyond wildest imagination. The characters of this novel came early to the goldfields, led danger-filled, extraordinary lives on the frontier, but only Jake Smith and Jay Cooke attained the gold ring of Eldorado. Even Bill Fairweather, the snake charmer and discoverer of Alder Gulch had empty pockets when he was found shot to death in his San Francisco hotel room. But these courageous pioneers left future generations something of immense value: Yellowstone National Park. This debut work is a historically authentic storyline brought to life and instilled with the atmosphere and geography of old Montana. Relive those freewheeling days in this last vast wilderness and the most harrowing survival ordeal of the Great American West.
Robert C. Bartsch is a retired veterinary pathologist who lives and plays most of the year near Yellowstone Park with his wife Marjorie. Writing an historical novel about an area he knows and loves has been a long term dream.
“In this novel, Robert Bartsch mixes the creation of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, into the larger, deeper, and wilder history of Montana: mountain men, gold prospectors, business tycoons, and explorers, lynch mobs, an Indian massacre, and a grueling survival ordeal in the wilderness all swirl and bubble like one of Yellowstone’s geyser basins.” (Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Seed of the Future, and four other books on the American West)
“This story details the trials and triumphs that both plagued and rewarded early seekers of fame, fortune, and prosperity in the 1860s frontier landscape of Montana and Wyoming. Filled with daring explorations of the frontier wilderness, dangerous encounters with Indians, rugged American individualism, mining booms and busts, banking and financial shenanigans, vigilante justice, and an illicit love affair, this novel will capture and seize your imagination with unrelenting western frontier spirit, Montana’s promising gold rush days, and a host of impulses that would lead to the creation of America’s Wonderland: Yellowstone National Park.” (Elizabeth Watry, Western historian and author of Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legends, and Legacies of Yellowstone National Park)
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