v a shannon
'When Winter Comes' is based on the true events of the Donner Party, a group of emigrants who set out to travel by wagon train to California in 1846. It is narrated by a young woman now living in a small town in California, who reflects on her travels as companion to the Keseberg family. It recounts the story of her flight from her abusive family in Cincinnati, embarking on a journey that moves from delight to despair, as the wagon train winds its way across the heartlands of America towards the ultimate goal of California.
A novel about Louis Keseberg
“It struck me now, that this was just the time of year when the wagons departed on the trail to the West. Their gathering point was some meadow land on the outskirts of the city, where they made ready to start on the first part of their journey to Independence, Missouri, a journey of some five hundred miles.
I had heard tell that in Independence the wagons collected in their hundreds, the little trickles of travelers from every town in the East joining together to form a great river that swept across the plains towards Oregon and California. I longed to see this great sight; for even with only a dozen or so wagons departing from Cincinnati, during the first week of spring our little stretch of meadow turned into a bustling market place. Stalls set up with dried goods for purchase, peas and beans and rice, and there were drapers with silks and calicos, and wool merchants with bales of cloth, and trinket stalls with beads and other gew-gaws that could be traded with the Indians on the way, or the Mexicos on arrival in California. The tallower was there with candles and lanterns and axle grease in buckets, and the cooper, to make or mend barrels. There would be a blacksmith sharpening knives and shoeing horses, cursing and yelling in the heat of his forge, and the clang of the hammers and the sparks flying up; and drovers with beeves and cows and mules for sale, all bellowing and braying and neighing. And there were cages filled with chickens, the hens clucking and squawking and the roosters crowing fit to burst, and dogs reputed to be fine ratters, and cats said to be great mousers.
Over all, a preacher yelling like enough to raise the dead in one corner, and the medicine man in another, offering Dr Cooper’s Tonic and Mrs Madison’s Liniment, guaranteed to mend everything from a fever to a broken leg. He made good money, for most women bought a bottle or two of his cure-all. No woman wanted to birth a baby on the journey, and it was well known that if you took a spoonful or so the early morning grips that showed a baby was started would disappear, and the baby with them.
It was a sight to see the wagons arriving day by day. They’d have their teams of heavy beeves pulling, with another yoke or two roped behind, and maybe a goat or a milk cow and a calf or two. The women in their caps and bonnets would be helped down from their high seats in front and they would go from stall to stall, fingering the goods and bartering, and their teamsters would load their purchases into the wagons. There would be some down-at-heel folks, looking to work their passage, and a few single men up on their glossy horses, intending to join with a train. These men would strut about with their fingers stuck in their waistcoats, stiff new-leather gunbelts with shiny-handled guns in the holsters slung casually over their hips and cigarillos perched in the corners of their mouths, talking in loud voices of their plans for getting rich in California; at the same time pulling their hats low on their foreheads, to hide their assessing glances at the plump matrons and the pretty daughters.
It was possible to join a wagon train, even if you had no horse or wagon of your own. They went at walking pace, and if you could find someone to take on your belongings for a fee you could walk the trail with them. I felt in my pocket, and pulled out the coins I had taken. There were some dimes and quarters, and five silver dollars, too. I had never seen so much money in my life before. I had no belongings, but I had the fee right enough. I poked my head cautiously out of my little hidey-hole, and looked to left and right. There was no-one to see me.
I got to my feet, and set off, my legs shaking beneath me. I had decided. I would leave Cincinnati for good, and make the journey to the West.”
WHEN WINTER COMES is published by Kensington Publishing Corp, USA
Available in the UK from W H Smith and Foyles Bookstores, London;
(published through Penguin Random House, Canada, Indigo Books and Mcnally Robinson bookstores
When mousy shop assistant Tory leaves her job, her flat and her family and runs away to Italy, local reporter Mickey smells a story. Tory's winning entry into the local art competition bears a striking resemblance to Gregoire St John Prechac's iconic portrait of heart-throb actor Jake Stephens, killed in a car accident more than twenty years ago. What is the connection between Tory, Gregoire and Jake? What will happen to Mickey when manipulative gallery-owner Guido gets to hear of his investigation? And who is the reclusive stranger living in the beautiful Villa Orfeo?