1860s San Francisco. The Gold Rush has ended; the Civil War threatens to tear apart the country. The bards of the moment are the Bohemians: a young Mark Twain, fleeing the draft and seeking adventure; literary golden boy Bret Harte; struggling gay poet Charles Warren Stoddard; and beautiful, haunted Ina Coolbrith, poet and protectorate of the group. Ben Tarnoff's elegant, atmospheric history reveals how these four pioneering western writers would together create a new American literature, unfettered by the heavy European influence that dominated the East.
BEN TARNOFF is the author of "A Counterfeiter's Paradise." He has written for the "New York Times "and "San Francisco Chronicle," among other publications. He lives in New York City.