Mon 9 Sep 2013
HOLLISTER NOBLE – One Way to Eldorado. Doubleday, hardcover, 1954.
Okay, this’ll sound like a trip report, but it’s really a book review. A few years back we took two trips: one to Lake Tahoe for a wedding, and one to Myrtle Beach to see my parents. For the Tahoe trip we flew into Sacramento and took a “shortcut” to Tahoe — driving across the mountains on a road that went straight up, spun around, twisted, bucked and plunged back down again, with all the charm of a Brahma Bull that’s just been kicked in the nuts. Along the roadside, we noticed reflectionized markers about 12 feet high, and suddenly realized they were there to mark the road in heavy snow!
As for Myrtle Beach, I’ve always found it crowded and touristy, but my folks like living there, and that’s the main thing. There’s one Used Book Store in the whole city, a moribund place pretty much devoid of charm, but I found something there called One Way to Eldorado by Hollister Noble.
It looked like a mystery set in a deserted whistle-stop town: a Railroad trouble-shooter stuck in a blizzard with assorted gamblers, miners, dance hall gals, etc. and I’d never heard of it (it’s not listed in Hubin) so I thought I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise when I found the story was set in the same mountain pass I had driven through just a few months earlier!
Your chances of finding this are pretty slim, but it’s worth a look. Noble takes too long getting the story off the ground, and the background seems rushed at first, but once he gets started, he delivers a fast-paced tale filled with roaring winds, avalanches, train wrecks, fights, robberies, and a nifty ending I didn’t quite see coming.
There’s also some unintended charm: Noble wrote this when Train was still the primary method of travel and shipping cross-country, and his picture of this forgotten time has a faded splendor I found captivating all by itself.