Monday, July 1, 2019

----------The Desire Card by Lee Matthew Goldberg----------


Title: THE DESIRE CARD
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Pages: TBA
Genre: Crime/Suspense

BOOK BLURB:
Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That's the promise the Desire Card gives to its elite clients. But if the Card doesn’t feel like they’ve been justly compensated, the “price” will be more menacing than the clients could ever imagine.   

Harrison Stockton learns this lesson all too well. Harrison has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street along with a fondness for alcohol and pills, and a family he adores, yet has no time for. All of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his executive job and discovers he has liver cirrhosis with mere months left to live.

After finding himself far down on the donor list, Harrison takes matters into his own hands. This decision sparks a gritty and gripping quest that takes him to the slums of Mumbai in search of a black market organ and forces him under the Desire Card’s thumb. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and put a stop to the Card.

THE DESIRE CARD is a taut international thriller that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn’t always enough to get everything he desires. It’s the first book in a series followed by PREY NO MORE that focuses on other people indebted to this sinister organization, where the actual price is the cost of one’s soul.

PRAISE:

"Careful what you wish for, especially from a nefarious shadow organization, in this gripping start to Lee Matthew Goldberg's fast-paced, highly compelling, buzz worthy new series. If you love characters morally compromised, richly drawn, and constantly surprising, you'll love THE DESIRE CARD. I burned through the first book and can't wait to get my hands on PREY NO MORE to see where this endlessly exciting story takes me next! Loved it!” - Daniel Palmer, critically acclaimed suspense author

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Chapter 1

HARRISON SAT OUTSIDE THE OFFICE OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR AWAITING HIS FATE. The end of the month meant slash and burn time, but he had successfully avoided the axe for twelve months now. Something told him this wasn’t going to be lucky number thirteen. After almost twenty years of dedication, he swore he wouldn’t beg, wouldn’t give that fucker Thom Bartlett any satisfaction in letting him go. Thom, with his faux British accent even though he lived in the U.S. since he was two, his nose up the CEO’s ass at every chance, his chastising of Harrison’s “extracurricular activities,” even though Thom was just as guilty of similar vices. Harrison stared at this fucker’s door, as if by monitoring he could will it to stay closed and ensure that he’d forever remain a part of Sanford & Co.’s Mergers and Acquisitions team.
A sharp pain in his abdomen caused him to pitch forward. His stomach churned as a flood of bile crept up his throat. Thom’s door now appeared so out of focus that for a second Harrison forgot where he was.
            “Bad lunch?” his buddy Whit whispered, from a nearby seat.
Thom’s ancient secretary glanced up at them from her fury of typing and went back to punishing the keys.
Harrison clutched his stomach and let out a stifled belch. The air now smelled like he’d been dining on garbage. His chronic halitosis had only been getting worse. He could barely recall the last time he’d kissed Helene like when they were young with an appetite to devour. At most he received a peck while she held her breath. It’s not like her body hadn’t also changed, and yet he still found her a knockout: whip-smart and sophisticated, alluring whenever she was in deep thought and chewed on the earpiece of her reading glasses. Only once had he participated in a particular “extracurricular activity” outside of their marriage. It was something he instantly regretted—but she had been treating him like a pariah in the bedroom for almost a year, and he found himself in the arms of another. So now he let her give those little digs about his hygiene, one of the small pleasures she seemed to have during the scant few hours a day when he was home.
Whit seemed to inch his chair away from Harrison’s death burp and occupied himself with the new Breitling hanging from his wrist. Here the two were about to be sliced up and gutted and Whit had spent last weekend dropping $10K on a watch. Sure Harrison indulged in more luxuries than most and hated his old Tag enough to go splurging, but unlike Whit, he had two kids in uptown private schools to worry about.
“Drinks at Mobeley’s later tonight?” Whit asked, placing his hand on Harrison’s shoulder. “Whatever the outcome of this summons might be?”
Harrison nodded with tired eyes.
“You’re a VP here, Harry. Higher up on the rung than me. You’ve got a better chance of surviving.”
Whit’s hand still massaged Harrison’s shoulder, but his encouragement was not convincing. He had probably expected a similar consoling reply, except the room was spinning too much for Harrison to care.
“You’re not looking well,” Whit said. Thom’s secretary seemed to glance up from her typing again to nod in agreement. The two of them caught each other’s eye, as if they were conspiring against him. Well, we couldn’t all look like Whit. Just a few years younger but still with a full head of thick black hair only slightly graying at the temples, something that made him appear even more distinguished. Pecs and abs that he never shut up about. A terror on the racquetball courts who slaughtered Harrison every time. The son of a well-known surgeon at N.Y.U Medical with a hot Japanese wife barely out of her twenties whose goal in life was to be at his beck and call. Whit had been made an Associate two years earlier than Harrison and was able to maintain a rapport with the higher ups that Harrison could never manage: calling the CEO Dougie to his face instead of Mr. Sanford and still having a job the next day.
The secretary picked up the phone on her desk while still typing away.
“Certainly, Mr. Bartlett,” she chirped into the receiver, and then turned her disapproving gaze to Harrison. “Mr. Bartlett will see you now, Mr. Stockton.”
Harrison gathered up his briefcase and overcoat. He had to hold onto the seat as he stood, his feet pivoting and almost sending him to the ground.
“Gotta watch those martini lunches,” Whit said, slapping Harrison on the back and pushing him toward his doom.
Harrison put one foot in front of the other slowly, avoiding Thom’s inevitable decision for as long as possible.
Even if he wound up getting let go today, an outsider looking in might assume that his life was still going well: two decades of marriage, healthy kids, and a fantastic New York apartment; but he felt like he’d just been going through the motions for too long. A major chunk had been missing, a spark of excitement, adventure, and meaning. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, just that he desperately longed for it to exist.
As he put his hand on the doorknob and turned, he tried to think of what would make him happy, something he wanted more than anything that would cause him to shoot out of bed every morning with a smile.
He squeezed his eyes shut, willing this desired vision to appear, but all he saw was darkness.

[]

  Who in their right mind didn’t covet Thom Bartlett’s office? High floor with downtown skyline views, fluffy clouds outside of the windows, a wet bar that Harrison eyed. Some good Scotch had already been opened. Harrison had forced himself to keep sober during a gobbled lunch of an Italian sub without his trusty flask to chase it down. Now his hands trembled at the thought of that Scotch burning his throat.
“Can I offer you something?” Thom asked, indicating the bar with a grand sweep of his arm, as if to say, yes, I have a bar in my office, which you, dear sir, never had here and regrettably never will.
“I might as well,” Harrison coughed, scooting over and pouring two shots worth into a glass. He sat across from Thom and put the comforting drink to his lips.
Thom fiddled with a stack of papers in a folder on his desk. He looked up at Harrison through the thick frames he kept low on his sloping nose, almost touching his top lip.
“So Sanford & Co. has become swollen lately. We’re too big for our own good right now and need to restructure–”
“Just spit it out,” Harrison said, knocking back half the glass of Scotch.
“I’m sorry, Harrison. We’re going to have to let you go, effective today.”
Thom delivered this news while fixing his Windsor knot, which Harrison figured had taken him numerous tries that morning to perfect. Harrison wanted to grab him by that knot and choke his tiny little bird head until it popped off.
“I’ve given practically twenty years to this firm,” he said, running his hands through his thinning hair. “I sleep here, I eat here. I barely exist at home anymore.”
“It’s the same for all of us, mate.”
“I’m not your fucking mate,” Harrison said, finishing the rest of the Scotch and starting to sway.
“Old boy, I am not the villain here. Every firm on the Street has been feeling this strain since the economy collapsed. Now we are offering you a solid severance package, which I think is more than generous. I’ll also save you the spectacle of having security escort you out.”
“What was Sanford’s reason?” Harrison asked quietly, not wanting to hear the answer but knowing that he’d be unable to leave without one.
Thom had already started pushing the folder across the desk, shutting Harrison up, getting this over with. His face looked exhausted from delivering executions.
“We’ve heard from some clients,” he said, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Heard what…?”
“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately, huh, Harry?” he asked, his voice rising to the level of an uncomfortable squeal. “Your skin, mate…sorry, but you’re looking rather yellow, and your eyes, well there’s this permanent creaminess to them… I’m just using the client’s words–”
“Which client?”
“Which one hasn’t mentioned this is more like it.”
Harrison went to respond but now Thom was on a roll.
“As a VP, this is a face-to-face business. I go for manicures, mate, you think I like it–it’s a requirement. Maybe if you cut back on the drink….”
“I’ve advised some huge mergers here over the years.” Harrison pointed at Thom with his empty glass. “I didn’t realize this was only a pretty boys game.”
“You’ve let some messy pitchbooks slide through recently, as well.”
“Shouldn’t the analysts be blamed for creating them?”
“Don’t think they haven’t been dealt with, too.”
“So maybe I’ve gotten lax with a couple of pitchbooks for smaller clients, but never any of the big ones.”
“When…was the last time you’ve been to a doctor, Harry?”
“Doctors,” Harrison said, brushing them all away with a flick of his wrist. He had always believed that no matter what, doctors tried to find something wrong with you so you’d give them more business. And yeah, his skin had developed a yellowish hue as of late and sometimes his gut felt like it was rotting. Varicose veins had multiplied along his thighs and there were moments when he’d lose balance and have to go and dry heave in an empty stall once no one else was around, but he was a professional drinker just like his dad had been, and that son-of-a-bitch had put back a liter of gin and a pack of smokes a day up until the ripe old age of eighty-eight. Hell, who needed to live longer than that anyway? Life could be brutal, and if some booze, some smokes and some pills provided a relief from the banality of it all, then screw any doctor who’d tell him otherwise.
Thom tapped on the folder to indicate that it was time to wrap this up.
“I have to make sure that you understand what’s in the package,” he said, pushing it closer to Harrison until it practically fell off the desk.
Harrison opened it up and flipped through: six months pay, benefits as well, blah, blah, blah. He closed it shut and went to throw it in his briefcase.
“Tut tut,” Thom said, wagging his finger. “There’s something you missed that Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you saw.”
Harrison re-opened the folder and spied a card clipped to the first page.
 []
 “What the hell is a Desire Card?”
Thom reached over and un-clipped the card.
“You have been a valued employee here. Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you understood that we’re not parting on bad terms. This is what’s best for everyone.”
Thom handed him the card. Harrison turned it over and over with his stubby fingers.
“It’s like…a phone or something too?”
“Of sorts, just to keep their network as secure and exclusive as possible. We didn’t include this in everyone’s package, so you know. This is an organization that Mr. Sanford has a long history with, very hush-hush obviously, very elite. If you want something…anything…they have the power to make it happen.”
“Can they get me my job back?”
“Cute, Harrison, don’t ever lose that charm.”
Thom reached over to take the empty glass away.
“So tonight, Harry, instead of drowning your sorrows in a bottle, give the Card a try and have them ring you up a girl I guarantee you’ll enjoy. Or whatever else you wish. We promise we’ll give a glowing report to any future job prospects so consider this the start of a paid vacation.”
Thom stuck out his hand to shake, the nails manicured, no rogue cuticles to speak of; but the hand was delicate and unassuming, not someone with the power to hold Harrison’s life in his palm, just a meager messenger. Harrison slipped the Desire Card in his pocket and shook Thom’s hand, squeezing hard as Thom grimaced.
“And see a doctor,” Thom replied, giddy now that this ordeal was over.
“Watch out, you’ll be gutted next,” Harrison said, rising and feeling his legs give out. He collapsed back into the chair as Thom let out a spurt of a laugh.
“You all right there, mate?”
“Piss on England.”
Harrison gave standing up another try. He gripped Thom’s desk for support. Thom looked worried that Harrison might take the whole desk down with him, but Harrison was doing his best to maintain even though it felt like he was viewing Thom through the wrong end of a telescope.
“You can go ahead and send Mr. Carmichael in,” Thom said, fixing his Windsor knot again that had become slightly askew. “Best to Helene and the children.”
Harrison slung his coat over his arm and gripped his briefcase as he headed for the door. After a few steps, his vision became cloudier and he could feel the creamy tears falling from his eyes. They stung his cheeks as he grappled with the doorknob and lurched into the hallway.
In the front office, Whit was leaning over the secretary’s desk; the two engaged in hushed words that stopped once Harrison emerged. Harrison ran his finger from one side of his neck to the other. Whit gave him a solemn nod back, but Harrison couldn’t hold it in any longer and puked up the barely digested Scotch.
“Oh my!” he heard the secretary say.
He stared at his sickness bubbling on the floor, a mix of half-chewed capicola and salami in an amber soup with specks of dark red blood throughout, the clots of blood so dark they looked like tar. He wiped his mouth and trudged past all the onlookers toward the elevators outside, glad that a part of him would remain embedded in Sanford & Co.’s carpet.
As the elevator arrived and he stepped inside, he wished for the undoing of everyone involved in his termination, knowing that only their collective downfall could get him to shoot out of bed with a smile.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Dark Spiral Down by Michael Houtz


Title: DARK SPIRAL DOWN
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: 377
Genre: Thriller/International/Action

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.
Praise for Michael Houtz
                                                 
“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”
~Lima Charlie Review
 “…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”
~Andrea Brunais, Author
 “Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”
~Dan Grant, Author
 Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”
~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine

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Chapter 1

Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night Main Event, April 21st

“Ten seconds!”

From his corner, Cole Haufner heard the cry all the way across the blood-smeared octagon. He held his opponent immobile, letting the clock run out on the second of three periods. He was well ahead in the fight, but a nasty gash over his left eye, one that opened in the late first round from a flying elbow, threatened the outcome due to the amount of blood pouring from the wound. The win was not his primary goal. A six-figure purse for a victory ensured his son’s life-saving surgery.
The referee separated both fighters while directing them to their respective corners.
Cole jumped up from the mat, fist-pumped the air for the crowd, and made his way to his corner where two men stood ready to attend to him. As he approached his team, Cole saw the fight doctor walk through the cage door opening with a look of concern. A sense of dread attacked Cole.
“Lemme take a look at that,” the physician ordered as he stepped forward to scan Cole’s injury.
“I’m good, Doc, I’m good.” Blood poured down his face, spreading across Cole’s sweat-covered chest




and pooling onto the canvas mat.

The fighter’s corner coach, Barry Liggit, and cut-man, Scott “Stitch” Bell, leaned in close to see the wound.
“I’m fine. Just get me ready,” Cole snarled. He needed the fight doctor to give him a break on the injury.
Beyond the blinding lights shining on the fight ring, more than thirteen thousand fans chanted, “Gentleman, gentleman, gentleman…”
The spectacle of the crowd embarrassed Cole. This unwanted praise railed against everything he’d been taught at the Chinese Buddhist monastery where he lived and studied as a young boy.
“You hear that?” Barry shouted over the noise of the crowd. “They want you, Cole. They know you’re the next middle-weight champion.”
The doctor repeatedly held pressure over the cut and released to see how quickly the wound bled. Each time he let go, a fountain of red erupted.
Cole saw the concern in the physician’s eyes. “Doc, you know I need this one,” he pleaded. “You know my family story. I swear I’ll finish this quick.”
“I’m giving you one minute.” the doctor shouted to Barry. “I’m not losing my medical license because of his injury.” The ER physician turned and nodded to the fight officials outside the cage that Round 3 would start.

The crowd erupted in a roar.
Stitch jumped in front of Cole with packing cream and the frozen steel plate to stem the bleeding long enough to ready the fighter.
Barry leaned close to Cole’s face. “You’ve never had a fight last more than a minute. What’s the deal?



You don’t have a lot of time! You got me?”

Cole looked to his right. An empty seat remained at ringside. His older brother, Butch, promised to attend. Cole started the headline match with some concern, but now, he worried over his brother’s absence. They hadn’t spoken in the last twenty-four hours, even though Butch was supposed to have received a special furlough from his military unit to be here. For Butch to break a promise wasn’t unusual—it came with his job. Amid one of the most important moments of his life, Cole couldn’t help but worry.
A hand jerked his head. “Are you even hearing me?” Barry yelled.
Cole shifted his gaze back to the ring, catching Stitch looking in the same direction.
“Holy shit. Are you dragging out this fight waiting for Butch?” Stitch shouted.
Busted. Cole looked away from Barry, unable to hold his coach’s gaze.
Barry put his hands on his hips, lips smashed into a line. “You gotta be kidding me! Well, that would explain why we’re in round three. You’re one lucky punch away from losing this fight. Don’t you think your son needs this win?”
You know he’s off limits. For the first time in the match, rage filled his body. The immediate image of his son’s physical struggles with a failing heart sent a powerful surge through his nervous system. He glared at his trainer, blood running down his face as the cold plate slipped from the gash. “Shut your mouth,” Cole hissed.
Barry swallowed. The corner man quickly recovered “This is it, brother. The crowd wants ‘the



Gentleman,’ but give them the ‘Beast’. Let’s see some of that monk shit and finish this fight.”

Sorry, Butch, I can’t wait any longer. I know you’ll understand. Cole opened his mouth so Barry could slide the mouthpiece into place. “Don’t blink or you two are gonna miss an old move of mine.”
Barry and Stitch grinned.
Dragging out the fight was a stupid move. Even though he’d never met his match, not even close in the ring, Cole faced a professional fighter. Barry was right. Another lucky punch like the one that cut him in round one could lose him the one hundred- thousand-dollar bonus offered for a win. His son needed him.
Focus. Breathe. For Max.
The referee made his way to the center of the octagon and motioned for the fight corners to clear the ring.
Stitch held the cold plate to Cole’s forehead cut for three more seconds then followed everyone else out with the door clanging shut.
Vision in Cole’s left eye blurred—the blood was already seeping from around the edges of the packing cream.
The ref signaled to the ringside table he was ready then waved with both hands for the fighters to approach the center.
Cole stepped forward in his usual calm manner— the source of the nickname “the Gentleman.”
The other fighter bounced on the balls of his feet, just out of reach.
“Ready.” The referee continued with a slight pause in between. “Let’s bring it!” With that, he jumped back out of the way of the combatants.




Cole ducked as his opponent unleashed a flurry of combinations, trying to finish the fight almost as quickly as it had resumed. He parried the punches and kicks, toying with the other man, aware he had less than a minute before the doctor returned to the ring. Cole only needed a fraction of a second. He searched for an opening.
The onslaught carried on for a full ten seconds before the fighter dropped back, his nostrils flaring like a bull’s.
Blood flowed freely again, saturating Cole’s chest and shorts while clouding his vision.
The opposing corner yelled to their fighter to go to a defensive position.
“I’m sorry,” Cole shouted to his opponent.
The sweating mass of muscle furrowed his forehead. “The hell you say?”
“Sorry about this.” Cole stood from his crouch and lowered his fists.
“What are you doing?” Barry screamed from just outside of the cage. “Hands up. Hands up!”
In the blink of an eye, the other man slid forward and threw a powerful right hand.
This moment was Cole’s. Rather than defend, he leaped from the canvas, performed a front somersault in mid-air, and extended his right leg, bringing his heel crashing down on top of the man’s head. A sickening thud sounded upon contact, and the other fighter collapsed to the mat, unmoving.
Cole rolled forward after the strike, coming to rest in a crouch some five feet away. Though he suspected the instant he’d made contact he’d finished off his opponent, Cole took nothing for granted. He spun in



case of a counterattack.

The ref, initially stunned, dove onto the unmoving man. The crowd’s collective gasp morphed into a deafening roar when the signal was given the fight was over.
Panting from the effort, Cole watched as the cage door opened, and medical personnel raced inside.
Barry and Stitch rushed through the portal and drew him into crushing hugs amid incredible noise. Literally lifted off his feet, Cole only felt relief in accomplishing what he’d set out to do; he’d likely saved his son’s life.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

----------Moments That Made America by Geoff Armstrong----------

Title: MOMENTS THAT MADE AMERICA: FROM THE ICE AGE TO THE ALAMO
Author: Geoff Armstrong
Publisher: History Publishing Company
Pages:
Genre: American History

BOOK BLURB:
From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people - crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal "tipping" events formed America's geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.

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https://www.amazon.com/Moments-That-Made-America-Alamo/dp/1727864913/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1CS06XA8TTF0I&keywords=moment%27s+that+made+america&qid=1550640819&s=gateway&sprefix=Moments+That+Made+A%2Caps%2C212&sr=8-2
CHAPTER ONE
IN THE BEGINNING
Birth of a Continent
            There is something totally appropriate about the fact that North America, the continent that would someday contain the United States, was born in a cataclysm so violent it ripped apart a gigantic supercontinent.
            A little more than two hundred million years ago, the continent we know as North America did not exist. From space, our planet looked nothing like earth of the 21st century. At that distant time in our planet’s history, all the continents that exist today were joined together into one giant landmass scientists call “Pangaea”.
            Then, on the 4th of July, 200,000,000 BCE (Before the Common Era) an immense earthquake hammered Pangaea. From the extreme northernmost point to the southern end, a deep fault in the earth split open and a huge chunk of Pangaea began to separate from the rest of the supercontinent. At first, the separation was only a few inches, but North America was born at that moment. A small piece of the scar from that cataclysm can be seen in a 20-mile line of cliffs called the Hudson River Palisades that run along the west side of the lower Hudson River near New York City.
The date is highly imaginary of course. With no humans around to invent calendars, we can’t possibly know the exact date North America was born, but that date fits perfectly.
            Scientists believe that Pangaea broke apart because the solid surface we live on isn’t actually solid. It is made up of continent-sized plates that float upon what geophysicists call the “mantle”, a hot, molten rocky layer, about 1,800 miles thick that lies deep beneath our feet. The movement of these plates is called “plate tectonics” and the different conditions and effects they generate are responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes and the creation of mountains.
            Slowly, very slowly, through long eons, moving just centimeters per year, the gap between the newborn continent and what was left of old Pangaea widened as America moved west, the gap filling with salt water from the great ocean that covered most of the planet. That gap eventually become a sea, then an ocean more than two thousand miles wide we call the Atlantic.
            That slow journey continues to this day and will it do so for millennia. Someday, eons from now, people sitting on a beach near Seattle will be able to wave greetings to folks in China.
In some places, that hot mantle pushes its way through cracks or fault lines, where it can show up as volcanoes and other features such as hot springs, geysers, steam vents and lava flows. They are called “hot spots”. One well-known hot spot lying out in the Pacific Ocean is the State of Hawaii, a volcanic chain of islands almost 4,000 miles long. Another is America’s first national park, Yellowstone, a hot spot that has been around for about 15,000,000 years. The entire Yellowstone system has been described as a super volcano with the potential to erupt with enough force to destroy much of the United States and Canada and significantly damage the entire planet. It last erupted 640,000 years ago and geophysicists enjoy informing anyone who will listen that we are long overdue for another deadly eruption.
It is from that westward movement of the North American plate that the continent gets its unique physical appearance. Where the North American and Pacific Plates meet, the Pacific Plate can be forced down into the mantle under North America, where it pushes up against the North American Plate, slowly bending parts of the plate upward. If the plates actually collide, large sections of the moving plates can be thrust upward or folded. These upward-thrust or folded masses of the crust aren’t minor ridges or tiny ripples in the earth’s surface. It took many millions of years, but it was the collision of those plates that built the system of mountain ranges called the American Cordillera that dominates western North America from Alaska to Mexico, branches of which include the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range.
This is the same process that formed the Appalachian Mountains and the Canadian Shield, many millions of years earlier than the North American Cordillera. Like the great mountains to the west, the Appalachians and the Canadian Shield were once towering peaks as high or even higher than the Rockies, but millions upon millions of years of erosion from rain, wind and the ice ages have worn them down to the relatively low mountains we see today.
            From the moment America was born 200 million years ago to the present day, those two opposing forces have been competing with each other. As tectonic forces work to build mountains and volcanoes, the forces of erosion such as glaciers, wind and rain work to wear down what the tectonic forces are trying to build, each trying to put its own stamp on what America should look like. But it was that earthquake 200 million years ago and the movement of those continent-sized plates that wrote the first pages in the story of America.
An Ancient Gift for a Young Nation
            As far back as 300 million years ago, in a geological period known as the Triassic, extensive swampy areas and a warm, moist climate fostered the growth of super-sized plants that spread across continent-sized regions. With the passage of time, great forests would rise and fall and rise again, laying down deep beds of dead vegetation that sank into the ancient swamps. High acid content in the water that covered the fallen plants, and the mud and silt washed into the swamps by storms or by tectonic events, buried the vegetation and cut off the oxygen. Slowly, the mixture of partly decayed vegetation turned to a peat. As the layers deepened, the weight and pressure on the peat increased. After millions of years, the pressure would change the peat into a soft coal called “lignite”. Often, heat from deep inside the earth, and the continuous buildup of additional layers of material on the surface would work together to compress the peat and lignite, causing both physical and chemical changes, which slowly turned the peat and lignite into bituminous or anthracite coal.
The same processes that transformed plant and sometimes animal matter into coal, also created stores of gas and petroleum. Over long ages, great stores of that dirty black rock packed with energy and vital chemical fuels would accumulate, so that millions of years in the future all that stored-up energy would be available to help a struggling young nation jump-start its economy, build its industrial strength and fuel America’s rise into a world power.
An End and a Beginning: The Last Days of the Dinosaurs
            Down the long centuries and millennia and vast ages, North America continued its westward journey. On board the new continent and sailing slowly west with it, were the plants and animals of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.
            As the eons passed, the creatures of the Jurassic evolved into the remarkable creatures of the Cretaceous, but perhaps the most important biological development during the Cretaceous was the emergence of the flowering plants, without which, many, if not most of our food crops would not exist. At about the same time flowering plants were evolving, many insects were also beginning to change and evolve. Ants, termites, butterflies, aphids, grasshoppers and wasps began to appear and among them, perhaps the most important insect of them all made its first appearance: the highly social bee, a development that was vital to the evolution of the flowering plants and, in the far distant future, American farms and orchards.
            But it is the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous that are among the most well-known and beloved of all the life forms that ever evolved in earth’s long history. Their names alone evoke wonder: Tyrannosaurs Rex, at 40 feet long, one of the largest land-based carnivores that ever lived; Triceratops a plant eating dinosaur, thirty feet long and weighing up to 12 tons with its unmistakable three-horned head that took up almost a third of its body length; Ankylosaurus, about the size of a modern elephant, but covered with large plates of bony armor; Pteranodon, a flying reptile with a 20 foot wingspan, and countless other giants. They were amazing creatures and if nature hadn’t created them, no human imagination could have done so. Had these wonderful creatures lived to the present day, the United States of America, as we know it, could not exist because the human beings who created it almost certainly could not have evolved. Our primate ancestors, if they had evolved at all, would have been little more than dinosaur snacks.
            Living almost unnoticeable among the dinosaurs were a number of much lesser creatures – the mammals. They were tiny animals compared to the dinosaurs. They gave birth to live young, but they were insignificant, furry little things and had the dinosaurs survived, it is highly unlikely that mammals, including humans, would have risen to dominant the world. Then, about 65 million years ago, in what amounts to a geological instant that not only made America, but the entire world, the dinosaurs disappeared.
            The theory as to what drove the dinosaurs to extinction was first proposed by a famous Nobel Prize physicist and amateur paleontologist, Luis Alvarez. His son Walter, a geologist, had been studying a strange layer of clay at the boundary between the Cretaceous and the Tertiary periods, also known as the K-T boundary, the layer that seemed to mark the moment in geological time when the dinosaurs went extinct. Paleontologists noticed that no dinosaur fossil has ever been found above that boundary.
            Luis and Walter enlisted the aid of nuclear chemists Frank Asaro and Helen Michel from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The chemists discovered that the strange clay contained an extremely high level of a substance known as iridium, a mineral that is rare on the earth, but present in the countless micrometeorites that arrive from space and dust the planet’s surface. Eventually, they also determined that the same clay from other locations around the world contained the same high iridium levels. There could only be one explanation: that iridium did not originate on earth. It came from outer space!
            In 1980, Luis and Walter Alvarez, and the two chemists published the paper proposing that the Cretaceous extinction was caused by an extraterrestrial impact. It was greeted with skepticism at first, but is now the most widely accepted explanation of what killed off the dinosaurs.
Although there is controversy as to whether or not a single event caused the extinction of as much as three quarters of the life on earth, most paleontologists agree that an extraterrestrial impact played a key role in their demise. A number also suggest that dinosaurs were already in trouble from disease, and from a series of volcanic eruptions called the Indian Deccan Trap that occurred at roughly the same time. Whether it was that singular deathblow from space or a final volcanic nail in the Cretaceous coffin, there is little question that 65 million years ago a mountain-sized asteroid smashed into the earth near what is now the town of Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
            The asteroid impact is believed to have set off widespread, major earthquakes, horrific storms, world wide volcanic eruptions and forest fires that sent ash and dust high into the atmosphere where it blocked the sun's light for years, perhaps for centuries. The devastation plunged the entire world into what today would be described as “nuclear winter”. As the effects of that catastrophic collision erupted across the globe, those awe-inspiring creatures that would someday be loved by children everywhere, began to die. The irony is that had their beloved dinosaurs survived, it is almost certain that none of those children would have ever been born.
            That anything was left alive anywhere was a miracle. As it was, the impact and its aftermath is believed to have wiped out up to seventy-five percent of all species on earth. Fortunately for humans, one class of animals that managed to survive was the one to which we humans belong: the mammals.
            As time passed, the planet slowly recovered. Mammals began to thrive and to fill the niche left by the dinosaurs. They have since spread to nearly every environment on the planet. Had the asteroid not wiped out the dinosaurs, it is very likely that mammals would have been unable to compete with their oversized, hungry neighbors and we humans might never have evolved.  Without humans there would be no America. Unlikely as it may seem, a big chunk of rock from outer space helped make America.
Ages of Ice
            If the view of our planet from space 200 million years ago was far different than it is today, the Earth as seen from space 12,000 years ago was just as surprising. Although North America would have been recognizable, its appearance would have been shocking. Stretching from the Arctic across all of what is now Canada and into the United States, lay a vast sheet of ice, as much as 4 kilometers thick, and as far south as 45 degrees north latitude. Scientists call this ice sheet the “Wisconsin Glaciation”. It was only the latest of several such periods that stretch back possibly as far as 2.4 billion years ago.
            What causes them is open to speculation, but variations in the distance of the Earth from the sun, solar energy output, ocean current circulation, composition of the atmosphere are all candidates. What does seem clear is that at some point, one or more of those possibilities works to push the planet over some crucial threshold and at that moment, an ice age becomes inevitable.
            When it arrived, the ice sheet didn't just sit there. It began to move. Like a giant bulldozer, it was working, ripping away soil and topsoil from what would one day be Canada, depositing all that fertile soil onto what would later be the United States. Enormous amounts of valuable Canadian topsoil, rock and gravel rode with the ice sheets as they moved. Some of the richest farmland in the United States Midwest and Northeast arrived in this way. Windstorms helped move tremendous amounts of this soil far from where the glacier left it, to settle out of the sky as a layer of fertile soil in the Mississippi and Missouri valleys, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The ice changed America. The Great Lakes were carved by ice gouging its way through existing valleys, carving them even deeper. Across most of the northern part of the continent, the glaciers gouged out depressions that filled with water as the glaciers melted. Many river systems were reshaped or created including the Mississippi River that formed when the water from the melting ice sheet collected in what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota, then carved its way to the Gulf of Mexico. And on the border between the Province of Ontario in Canada and the State of New York, the water from the melting ice ran into a 700 square mile limestone formation called the Niagara Escarpment and created Niagara Falls. The countless lakes in northern Canada can be attributed almost entirely to the action of the ice. And as the ice retreated, the land, once weighted down by the ice, rebounded and continues to reshape the Great Lakes and other areas formerly lying under the weight of the ice.
            Highly significant in the making of America was the fact that from about 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, a land corridor linked Eurasia to Alaska across what is now the Bering Strait. During the last ice age, water from the oceans locked up in the ice sheets, helped lower the global sea level by about 100 meters, allowing land-bridges between land masses such as the one across the Bering Strait, thus providing an access route into North America for animals and for people. America was now open and ready for human occupation.
First Americans
            According to archeologists, the first Americans arrived on the continent between 12,000 and 50,000 years ago. The figures represent a significant range, but both estimates are possibly correct in that the migration to the American continent probably went on, intermittently, for millennia. There is also controversy about the route some early Americans used. A few historians have suggested that stone age Europeans crossed the Atlantic by skirting the ice sheets during the last ice age, living off fish, seals and sea birds, or that Southeast Asians crossed the Pacific to get here, which means that America ten thousand years ago was almost as much of a “melting pot” as it is today. However, where they came from originally doesn’t change what those first pioneers contributed to the making of America.
            The most likely route for the migrations was via the land bridge across the Bering Strait. There is no way of knowing why these Asian pilgrims made the move. Were there legends about a vast land to the east that inspired the more adventurous among them? Were there conflicts, famines or natural crises that spurred them to leave their homes and head east to an unknown destination? Or were they merely doing what nomadic peoples have always done: following the animals that were their food supply?
            Did they have any inkling of the fact that they had arrived on an immense, rich, new continent, virtually empty of fellow humans? Perhaps none of these things mattered. It’s just as likely that the driving force was the compulsion that seems to be built into our human genetic code: the uncontrollable desire to see what lies over the next hill, beyond the next mountain. Whatever the reasons were that drove them to this continent, some long ago day, one of our human ancestors took a step out of Asia and became the first human being to set foot on the North American continent, thereby making that moment one of those that profoundly helped make America.
            By the time Europeans arrived, the people they mistakenly called “Indians” occupied every region on the continent from tropical rainforests to the Arctic, and they thrived there.
            Those earliest pioneers earned the epithet savage, largely because they weren’t Christian. Ironically, the name savage was given to them by people who, for centuries, had happily butchered countless thousands of their neighbors because they couldn’t agree on how religion should be practiced or how their deity should be worshipped.
            The first census in the United States was conducted in 1790 and included only 12 states. America counted white men, women, and children, slaves, cattle and billiard tables, but makes little mention of Native Americans. Any population estimates prior to that date are even more suspect. Though the population figures are highly controversial, America was not an empty land when those first Europeans arrived. The Native American population estimates range from a low of about two million to more than twenty million. Sometimes those figures go even higher. Whatever the population was when Columbus made his first voyage, by the time European diseases, conflict with white Americans, internal conflict and ill treatment exemplified by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 had taken their toll, the Native American population had plummeted. The question as to the size of the population prior to the arrival of Columbus points to a more fundamental question: was the influx of Europeans in America a great advance in the history of civilization or was it a catastrophe? There is no good answer. One can only hope that the end result makes up, in some small way, for what it took to get there.
            Despite the tribulations they suffered, the presence in America of those first Americans has added enormous depth to the nation’s history, culture, mindset, traditions and heritage. Without them, the nation we know today would be unrecognizable.
A Matter of Timing
            Vital to the making of America was the timing of those early European arrivals. The Iroquois League, later the Iroquois Confederacy, was a union of five powerful Native American tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tribes. Their territory extended across what is today Ontario, Quebec, and upper New York state. In 1722 the Tuscarora joined the Confederacy making it a union of Six Nations that still exists today. Their name for themselves was “Haudenosaunee”, People of the Long House. The name “Iroquois” was given to them by the French who had been settling in many of the regions occupied by the Haudenosaunee.
            A number of archeologist and anthropologists place the date of the league’s formation in the middle of the 1500’s, but some research hints at a much earlier date, even as far back as the middle of the 12th century. Although many historians credit the formation of the League as a response to the growing presence of Europeans, it is more likely that what really inspired the league was the desire on the part of the Iroquois to control and dominate the entire eastern region of the continent. Eventually, they managed to reach as far south as Kentucky and as far west as the Mississippi. More than one historian has described the Iroquois as an expansionist society, determined to unite tribes across much of North America. Those tribes they couldn’t persuade peacefully, they persuaded by force.
            The Iroquois were a people bent on nationhood. Not nationhood in European terms, but nationhood in terms of power. Had Europeans arrived 100 years later, it is doubtful that the newcomers would have been strong enough to control the Iroquois Confederacy and their allies. A century later, Iroquois power might have extended as far South as Florida. With that extra century to develop their imperialist goals, Europeans might have been greeted by a large, politically sophisticated, united and powerful Iroquois nation connected with what might have been an overwhelming number of allies, making European encroachment and settlement in large regions of America impossible. Had even a portion of the Native American population been able to unite against the European invasion, American history would have been very different.
            The only thing that stopped their expansionist agenda was the untimely arrival of Europeans, which created a new set of problems for all indigenous peoples. It should be noted, however, that it wasn’t superiority of European weapons, though that helped, nor was it European tactics and it certainly wasn’t superior intellect that devastated the native population. It was the diseases carried by Europeans, diseases from which the earliest Americans had little or no immunity. Smallpox, influenza, typhoid fever, even measles wiped out many thousand, possibly millions. Some estimates place the death toll from European diseases at 90 percent. Without a sufficiently large and organized force to oppose them, Europeans were able to establish those first crucial footholds and for better or for worse made America what it is today.
Contributions of the First Americans
            The contribution of the original Americans to the world and especially to the making of America is profound. Indian guides made the exploration of America easier. Ancient Indian trails, often marked the routes used by white pioneers as they journeyed west. Eventually, these trails became roads and railroads. Indian villages, at the invitation of their occupants, were often used as trading posts, and some have grown into cities such as Albany, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.
            The fact that the powerful Iroquois allied themselves with the English during the Seven Years War between England and France was decisive to the English victory in the struggle for supremacy in North America. The North American portion of this multi nation struggle was called the “French and Indian War”.
            What we now call “American English” has adopted hundreds of Indian words and phrases making the American version of the language more colorful and uniquely American. Words such as canoe, caribou, chipmunk, mackinaw, maize, moccasin, moose, Klondike, opossum, powwow, toboggan, tomahawk, totem, wampum, wigwam, woodchuck, all entered the American English directly from various Indian languages. The word tobacco comes from the Caribbean. It is from an Arawak Indian word that essentially means “a roll of leaves”.
            Countless North American place names are Native American in origin. From “Alaska”, (an Aleut word “alaxsxaq” – the place where the sea goes) to “Wyoming”, (“xwé:wamənk," at the big river") the names of more than half of the States are derived from Native American words or phrases. A favorite is the unchanged “Mississippi” - the great water or big river. New York State alone has more than a hundred place names taken directly from Native American languages. An exact tally of all place names of Native American origin in the United States is nearly impossible, but their existence has added wonderful poetry and color to American geography.
            According to estimates from a variety of sources, more than half of the agricultural production of the United States comes from plants or animals domesticated by Native Americans. A short list includes corn, a dozen or more varieties of beans, cranberries, pumpkins and squash, maple syrup, potatoes, turkeys, peanuts, tomatoes and tobacco.
            Native American art, music, games and sports, ideas about conservation and agriculture permeates American culture, even sign language, which was a system of hand signals used to assist trade and communicate between different tribal groups and later with traders and trappers, was developed by Native Americans. The same type of system is used today for communicating with the deaf. The very concept of government as practiced in the United States, in which certain powers are held by a central government, and all other powers reserved to the states, was borrowed from the system of government employed by the Iroquois League. In 1988 the United States Congress passed a resolution to recognize the influence of the Iroquois League upon the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without these First Americans and their enormous contributions, the United States would be an unrecognizable and faded shadow of the nation it is today.