Way of the Snake

During the 1850s, immigrants from as far away as Australia flocked to California. San Francisco became home to a vast number of those immigrants. 1852 alone saw over twenty thousand Chinese file through customs. They worked in the mines and fields and helped build the First Transcontinental Railroad.

Employed by gunsmith Ezra Miller, Chuán Zhāng discovers a certain prowess with pistols. Shooting exhibitions at the gunsmith’s become popular with customers. Ultimately, his expertise leads to a tragic death; he kills a man in self-defense. Forced to flee San Francisco, he discovers life on the wild frontier favors a man fast with a gun.

The Transcontinental Railroad slowly crawled across a landscape highlighted by the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains while the Civil War still raged. Chuán’s brothers, Qiáng, Xùn, and Yīng, are hired by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. Anxious for work, little do they realize the hazards they face in the mountains.

Like twin steel serpents, the rails crawled across the American landscape at a time in history when war tore the country’s fabric apart. Thousands of immigrants labored to stitch the country together with those tracks. Follow the tale of four brothers as they face the challenge of forging lives in their new land. Follow the Way of the Snake!



San Francisco, 1855

The sound of the shots echoed off the walls of the elegant ballroom. Chuán stood frozen in his shooting stance unable to draw a breath as the seconds passed. His host and challenger still wore a grin, though it had changed from a confident smirk to a bewildered grimace. The blood spilling down the front of his opponent’s shirt seemed to hold him spellbound. The cloud of black powder smoke dimmed the light spilling from the chandelier.

“You killed him,” Samuel Whitlock breathed into the stillness of the tableau. His friend swayed as if the words rocked his body. Still, Alexander Fullerton didn’t fall. The fingers of his left hand tentatively dabbed at the spreading stain cascading over his gun belt. He seemed to be unaware he still held his pistol in his right hand, the barrel drooping toward the polished wooden floor of the ballroom. Whitlock rushed to prevent him from crashing face-first to the floor as he sank to his knees.

“I told you, this was a damn fool idea,” he muttered. Fullerton gave him a weak smile as he guided his friend to a reclining position on the ballroom floor.

“The Chinaman is faster.” Alex pasted a pale grin on his features. “You won.”

Whitlock nodded solemnly in response. Glancing at Chuán Whitlock advised, “You better be fast…fast to get out of San Francisco.” Chuán was still in shock but Whitlock’s words broke his temporary paralysis. “I had no choice. He would have killed me,” he murmured defensively.

Whitlock turned his gaze to Fullerton’s face. His eyes were open yet he was beyond seeing anything. “It won’t matter,” he stated resignedly. “You killed a white man. I think you know what will happen.”

“It was self-defense!”

“It won’t matter,” Whitlock repeated. “The law won’t care what you say. The law won’t care what I say. Alex Fullerton’s father is an important man—wealthy, powerful, with friends who are just as wealthy and powerful.” He took a deep breath. “Leave. Just go, go as fast as you can.”

Chuán finally holstered his pistol. “Why?” he asked trying to understand why Whitlock would care if he fled or not. Whitlock understood the question. “It’s my fault. I was the one that brought him to Miller’s to watch you shoot. He thought he was the fastest shootist in San Francisco. I bet him you were faster. I never thought he’d be foolish enough to do something like this. I should have known…”

Chuán took a look at the opulent surroundings: the crystal chandelier, the marble fireplace, the polished hardwood floor, the hand-carved crown moldings that edged the walls as they met the ceiling. The room was larger than his father’s house. It was beautiful, which made the body on the floor that much more macabre. He left dreading what he must face. His father’s disappointment would be almost as crushing a blow as the realization he had just killed a man.

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Return to the early days of San Francisco, when immigrants from as far away as Australia flocked to California in pursuit of gold. Revisit a time when war kept families apart and it took thousands of immigrants to stitch the country together--follow the Way of the Snake. Use the buttons to order a Kindle version, a Paperback edition, or a Nook version today!

The image of the pistol on the cover is from a photo of a an 1851 Model Colt Navy .36. This particular pistol was built for Colt by Eli Whitney! The Chinese characters, called hanzi, reprents the snake--commonly used as the zodiac symbol for snake.

For more tales of the west, try the novel Killing Time or Behold a Pale Horse. Happy reading! - SC