A Chilliwack author has blended both history and fiction in his first novel exploring the events of the Fraser River Gold Rush in 1859.
Raymond Maher’s new historical fiction novel, The Deadly Five, was released in September and in it he weaves together the true history of the gold rush with five fictional characters.
“Most people don’t like history unless it’s dressed up,” Maher said, who’s now gearing up for a book signing later this month.
Having lived in Chilliwack for only five years, Maher didn’t know much about local history when he first moved here.
So after researching both the Fraser River Gold Rush and the Cariboo Gold Rush, he took those historical facts and mixed them with his five flawed, “honest-to-goodness, real-life” characters: Mean Mike, Nothing Brown, Jacque, Seth, and Old Man Magee.
“I was faithful to present the gold rush as the actual birth of British Columbia. It’s kind of what brought us to where we are today.”
He made The Deadly Five characters personable so as to make the history more exciting for the reader.
In the book, the five strike it rich when many others don’t. They find that their success is overshadowed by accusations that they are ‘The Deadly Five,’ guilty of murder, among other things.
It’s an “one for all and all for one” story, Maher said.
“They are closer than brothers and much more than friends. They’re really diverse but they work together.”
Mean Mike, Nothing Brown, Jacque, Seth, and Old Man Magee travel the gold rush route along the Fraser River rubbing elbows with authentic figures like Hanging Judge Matthew Begbie.
“I think I have done a really good job of presenting [Begbie] in a positive light,” he added.
Maher said he’s hoping people who read the book will have a sense of the excitement of history and the daringness of the people on the gold rush.
“I’m hoping that people will take away the sense of brotherhood, friendship, caring and sharing. I’m hoping it will make people both laugh and cry.”
There are a few things he wished to accomplish with the book. He wanted to highlight the actual places and events of the Fraser River Gold Rush, wanted the characters to catch the spirit of people coming into B.C. from around the world to hunt for gold, and he wanted to have fun with the characters.
His wife Marilyn, who is not a history buff, said he did all of that.
She read The Deadly Five and not only loved it, but learned a lot about local history, too.
“It’s kind of a cliff-hanger. The first thing I said to him after I read it is ‘have you started the second one?’”
There will be a physically distanced book launch and signing for The Deadly Five on Friday, Nov. 13 (2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and Saturday, Nov. 14 (10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) at the Royal Hotel (45886 Wellington Ave.).
Books are $14.99 (paperback) and $25.49 (hardcover). Cash only. Masks are required at the book signing.
The books are also available at The Book Man, the Chilliwack Museum gift shop, and the pro shop at the Chilliwack Curling Club. It can also be purchased in ebook form via accordingtoed.com or books.friesenpress.com/store.
It is 1858 and thousands of gold seekers are descending on the west coast of British Columbia to seek their fortunes in the gold rush. The new British colony becomes a hive of activity where Americans, Canadians, and the Indigenous people of the land collide, often with deadly repercussions. An unlikely team of adventurers forge an alliance as they make their way along the treacherous Fraser River, hoping to strike it rich. With dangers at every turn from man, nature, and beast, the men learn to rely on one another to survive. Though they all seek enough gold to change their lots in life, friendship and camaraderie may be the greatest treasure to be found on their journey.
The Deadly Five is based on the enthralling and fascinating Fraser River Gold Rush. Brimming with adventure and intrigue, readers will be whisked back to the early 1800s where life was merciless, and it took courage and determination to find that elusive pot of gold.
About the author
Raymond Maher has a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctor of Ministry. He’s a retired teacher and Lutheran pastor, and he currently writes a column ‘Neighbourly Advice According to Ed’ which has been published in various newspapers across Saskatchewan since 2009.