The story of JINCAN begins in southern China (Macau), introducing Shen and his quest for the perfect poison to carry out a final mission. Shen sails across the Pacific to San Francisco, with the hope of escaping his past. It is in San Francisco that Shen and Greystone meet.
In some of the places that Shen and Greystone travel to or through, San Francisco, Panama and the Sierra Nevada mountains, I have written a description of the place as seen through the eyes of early explorers or indigenous people. In this post and ones to follow, I am giving you a taste of how I have introduced each new location, starting with San Francisco.
LONG AFTER IT WAS PROVEN FALSE, a popular misconception lingered until the end of the 18th Century that Californiawas an island. Early Spanish explorers were the first to err, influenced perhaps by the writings of Garcí Ordóñez de Montalvo. And who could blame them? Having read a translation of the Castilian author’s work, The Exploits of Esplandián, I could appreciate how some would wish to hold on to a romantic notion of that mystical place.
Know that on the right hand from the Indies exists an island called California very close to a side of the Earthly Paradise; and it was populated by black women, without any man existing there, because they lived in the way of the Amazons. They had beautiful and robust bodies and were brave and very strong. Their island was the strongest of the World, with its cliffs and rocky shores. Their weapons were golden and so were the harnesses of the wild beasts that they were accustomed to taming so that they could be ridden, because there was no other metal in the island than gold.
Were his writings merely flights-of-fancy? Premonition was the word that came to mind. Even the Great Seal of California, formally adopted half a year before my adventure began, depicts a goddess said to be the Greek deity, Minerva. To my eyes though, there is little doubt that the seated figure holding a spear was inspired by Calafia, the warrior queen of Montalvo’s book. Montalvo was right about California’s gold, its cliffs and rocky shores, but his dreamy view of an ‘Earthly Paradise’ was a distant cry from what I experienced in that autumn of my arrival in 1850.
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My new book, JINCAN is available via Amazon and other booksellers.