By David Nevin
A Forge Book, 914 pp, 1983
Dream West is the novelized
story of John C. Fremont, explorer, mapmaker, soldier, general, gold
miner, governor (of two different territories, California and Arizona,
but not at the same time, of course), and presidential candidate.
It's quite a tale. I don't know enough
about Fremont's life to judge the novel's historical accuracy, but this
is a work of fiction. The book jacket says he spent eight years
researching the book, so that's some indication he probably did try to
do right by history.
I think he succeeded, and if he is
right, then Fremont was a true American hero. Brave, bound by honor and
duty, prone to action, ideal husband and father, he helped open the West
to exploration and establish California as a territory. Unfortunately,
he dabbled in business and politics a bit too much, because he was
trusting, decent, and honorable, while most of those around him were
not. They ambushed him every chance they got, and he gave them several
chances, but without intending to.
If you like grand, sweeping,
historical fiction, this is for you. It's well-written and detailed, but
not overly so. The only qualm, and this is no fault of Nevin's, is that
the book contained several typographical errors, a black mark on the
publisher. But such a minor quibble does not interfere in the enjoyment
and pleasure of reading Dream West.