SAN FRANCISCO’S MOST ENDURING MYSTERY:
THE LOST GOLD OF SAN FRANCISCO
By Michael Castleman
Imagine Dick Francis writing about journalism instead of
horse racing, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
set in the City by the Bay instead of Savanah. That should
provide some idea of the action, intrigue, local color, and
sheer fun of The Lost Gold of San Francisco.
It’s April 18, 1906, the day of the Big One. In the chaos
of the earthquake and fire, the San Francsico Mint loses
$130,000 of twenty-dollar gold pieces containing an obvious
error. Instead of the usual "S" mint mark, these coins have
a double mark, "SS." Two are recovered. They become the
most famous coins in U.S. history. The rest become the lost
gold of San Francisco, and their whereabouts becomes the
city’s most enduring mystery.
Fast-forward to 1989. Chester Worthington Gilchrist III,
billionaire publisher of San Francisco’s leading newspaper,
the Foghorn, donates his priceless coin collection to the
California Museum. It contains one of the two known 1906-SS
gold pieces. Brash reporter Ed Rosenberg covers the story.
Then the founder of the Museum turns up murdered. He has a
long list of enemies, but soon, the chief suspect is
Gilchrist’s son, Chet, just pardoned after 10 years as a
fugitive charged with heroin trafficking. Ed chases the
story from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Castro to a posh
art gallery on Union Square. More bodies drop, and Ed
suspects a connection to the lost gold. Meanwhile, Ed locks
horns with a rogue’s gallery of San Francisco characters,
including the bulldog owner of the alternative weekly
newspaper, and the swashbuckling founder of a controversial
magazine that mixes investigative reporting and naked
women. For help, Ed turns to a rabbinical school dropout
who shoots a mean game of pool, a young Chinese-American
reporter with a black belt in karate, and an exotic woman
with a talent for public relations, who’s even more
talented in private. Soon Ed isn’t just reporting the
story. Someone is shooting at him.
The Lost Gold of San Francisco is a gripping, intricately
plotted thrill ride vividly set during the fairy-tale
autumn of the Bay Bridge World Series and the Loma Prieta
earthquake. The action sizzles. The characters feel real.
The historical detail puts you right in the middle of the
1906 earthquake and fire. The portrait of San Francisco in
1989 captures the richness, diversity, and mayhem of life
in the city. And the ending will leave you smiling.