The book, based on the accounts of dozens of prospectors, follows thefirst gold-seekers from their arrival in 1873 until the stampede to theKlondike in 1896. Gates captures the essence of these early years ofthe gold rush, about which very little has been written. He chroniclesthe trials, hearbreaks, and successes of the unique and hardyindividualists who searched for gold in the wilderness. With names likeSwiftwater Bill, Crooked Leg Louie, Slobbery Tom, and Tin KettleGeorge, these men lived in total isolation beyond the borders ofcivilization. They were often eccentrics and outcasts, who shaped theirown rules, their own justice, and their own social order.