The rich history of Sacramento makes for a wonderful read. It also makes for a bountiful menu of people, places and events for writers to fashion into stories, real and imagined. From the pages of many authors, in many genres, the literary heritage of Sacramento springs to life. Here are a few literary landmarks in the area.
Folsom State Prison
300 Prison Road
Represa, CA 95671
Now and again, Dismas Hardy or Wyatt Hunt in a John Lescroart novel find it necessary to leave the webs and thrills of San Francisco. While they may end up just about anywhere, sometimes the people who live behind the bars at Folsom State Prison are who they need to speak with. That involves a trip to Sacramento and on to the massive stone prison. As a literary landmark, this place has found its way into more than just Lescroart’s works. Just because of where it is, and who is inside, it’s bound to continue to be woven in a few more literary works.
The Sacramento River
The city of Sacramento sits on the banks of the great Sacramento River. The history of this city is linked quite securely to this river. Joan Didion, John Lescroart, Mark Twain, Joan Del Monte, Todd Borg and many others have included the river in their novels, either as an obstacle to cross, a romantic episode or as the site of nefarious doings. The history of commerce and gold are forever welded to the banks of the river. The story of the river, the floods that it can produce and the effects on the city are an important part of the history of Sacramento. There is much mystery here.
2701 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
In 1839, John Sutter established his fort, thereby becoming the earliest non-native settlement in the great Sacramento Valley. One author, Fred Rosen, has penned a lively history of the fort and the gold rush that is connected to it. As a literary landmark, it is rich in history, greed, betrayal, love and empire building and loss. Mark Twain mentions it more than once. Ernesto Galarza, in his autobiographical novel “Barrio Boy,” mentions the fort and the stage coach in the museum. Not to be left out is the entire story of the gold rush and the role John Sutter and his fort played in it. The history of the ill-fated Donner Party is also part of the literary history of the fort. It was from here that the rescue of the stranded travelers was launched.
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310 Back St.
Coloma, CA 95613
In 1847, John Sutter partnered with James Marshall. They built a saw mill on the American River, in Coloma. The rest is history, forever linked to Sutter and his fort. The flakes of gold that Marshall found in 1848 forever changed California. The stories about the gold rush are plentiful. Fred Rosen’s book “Gold!” is but one in this crowd. He relates the entire feeling of gold fever madness in an entertaining and historically correct book. Most of all, as a literary landmark, the mill continues to be grist for anyone writing about gold in California, in novels or history books.
10510 Superfortress Ave.
Mather, CA 95655
Mather Field operated as a United States Air Force base from WWI until 1993. One of the aircrafts that was stationed here was the legendary B-52, the Flying Fortress. Author Dale Brown, who was a navigator-bombardier in a B-52, launched an intense and continuing series of military and global intrigue fiction novels with the publication of “Flight of the Old Dog.” Patrick McClanahan, General Elliot and other characters in the series flew a heavily modified B-52. The air base in Sacramento was a natural inclusion into the books simply because that’s where the main B-52 wing flew from, and not just in the novels. While Brown’s stories are fiction, and a great read, the B-52s that were stationed, and the crews who flew them, were very real. Brown has 2,500 hours of flight time aboard a B-52.
Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.