KING OF THE CRACKSMEN is steampunk at its finest in a merry tale of an
alternative America. What would have happened if the land
west of the Mississippi had been sold to Russia?
A cracksman is the term for a burglar expert in
safe breaking. We follow characters in this alternate 1877
America, where a new technique of refining calorium out of
pitchblende - the ore which produces uranium and radium -
has provided a power source for automata made in ingenious
British factories. Some of these automata are used by the
Department of Public Safety as fearsome guards, while
overhead hydrogen airships patrol with Secret Service men
on board. Liam McCool, reformed cracksman, finds his lover
Maggie dead on the floor of her boarding house. From the
clues he gathers she was killed and robbed by someone he
knew. He's determined to find the guilty party.
All is not calm, of course, and memories of the Civil War
mingle with fear of Russian spies, Indian revolts, British
trade wars, coal miner strikes in Pennsylvania, and French
communists in Mexico. These were turbulent times and author
Dennis O'Flaherty had no trouble writing an eventful story.
But the setting is just as rich; in Henderson's Patch we
find a Tesla steam generator powering Tesla light bulbs and
a steam-run pianola. Out in the countryside the wildlife is
growing alarmingly large. With his Irish family, Liam is
unwillingly connected to Fenian troublemakers, but he's
more interested in translating the words of the Little
Russia anarchists. The constant political references mean
that I believe the experiences will better suit adult
readers than young adults. Some terms of the day are used
that we now find offensive, but just about everyone is
insulted equally and cheerfully.
Any women to admire? Yes, the intrepid Becky Fox, a
journalist who reported undercover from the New York
Women's Prison on dreadful conditions and secured the
release of some residents. I am sure that anyone who knows
about America at this time would enjoy the ins and outs
imagined by O'Flaherty who has put a great deal of thought
and humour into creating his world. Steampunk is not meant
to be taken too seriously, but the steam-powered police mix
jauntily with struggling unions and New York gangs in a
riveting tale. I must praise the detailed drawings of
the cities visited, which help to bring the era to life.
Did I mention that Lake Superior has been renamed Lake
Petersburg? And you'll be surprised by who is president!
Find out more in the exciting KING OF THE CRACKSMEN.
The year is 1877. Automatons and steam-powered dirigible
gunships have transformed the United States in the aftermath
of the Civil War. All of the country’s land west of the
Mississippi was sold to Russia nearly fifty years earlier,
and “Little Russia,” as it’s now called, is ruled by the son
of Tsar Alexander II. Lincoln is still president, having
never been assassinated, but he’s not been seen for six
months, and rumors are flying about his disappearance. The
country is being run as a police state by his former
secretary of war Edwin Stanton, a power-hungry criminal who
rules with an iron fist.
Liam McCool is an outlaw, known among other crooks as “King
of the Cracksmen.” But his glory days as a safecracker and
the head of a powerful New York gang end when he’s caught
red-handed. Threatened with prison unless he informs on his
own brethren fighting a guerilla war against Stanton’s
tyranny, McCool’s been biding his time, trying to keeping
the heat off him long enough to escape to San Francisco with
his sweetheart Maggie. But when she turns up murdered,
McCool discovers a trail of breadcrumbs that look to lead
all the way up to the top of Stanton’s criminal
organization. Joining forces with world-famed lady reporter
Becky Fox, he plunges deep into the underground war, racing
to find Maggie’s killer and stop Stanton once and for all.
King of the Cracksmen is an explosive, action-packed look at
a Victorian empire that never was, part To Catch a Thief,
part Little Big Man, steampunk as you’ve never seen it before.