Early in the California Gold Rush the village now named Placerville was called Hangtown. Before law and order eventually came with statehood, men were hanged here for good reason and for no particular reason. In this novel of Hangtown, five leading citizens appointed themselves as The Hanging Committee to save the booming hamlet and their interests in it. Like the thousands of men flocking to the gold, these five were both seeking riches and escaping from the shadows of their former lives.
Mayor Honest John Nagengast had left a life of disappointment and failure in Missouri. Charley Crocker was a go-getter who made his fortune in Hangtown, then went on to found the Central Pacific Railroad with Leland Stanford and others. Miss Scylla McFee fled from a double murder in New Orleans to run a saloon and brothel for the gold seekers. Sheriff Barsuglia was on the run from life as a criminal and riverboat gambler. And Heinrich Schliemann grew rich assaying and buying the miners’ gold to sell in Sacramento, before eventually discovering the ancient cities of Troy.
Crocker and Schliemann were true historical characters in Hangtown during The Gold Rush, while the others are fictional characters. The author, SK Figler, lived in Placerville/Hangtown for over twenty years, planting hundreds of grapevines and numerous fruit trees, kicking over many rocks on his eight-acre farm but never found any gold.