“Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge.” Does this quote seem familiar to any of you? It is a line from Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War era short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which I read during my GPS days. Ambrose Bierce was a soldier and author whose disappearance in 1913 has never been solved. Apparently Bierce’s disappearance was not the only mystery surrounding him. In Oakley Hall’s novel, Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks, Bierce and his sidekick Tom Redmond solve a couple of mysteries themselves.
Hall’s novel takes place in San Francisco in the spring of 1891. In this picturesque city, there are sinister goings on- child labor, child slavery, missing women, blackmail, and of course, murder. Bierce and Redmond are reporters working at William Hearst’s newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, and Hearst ask them to investigate some missing photography plates. The search for the missing plates leads Bierce and Redmond into the world of Chinese gangs, prostitution, and corrupt British sailors. One-Eyed Jacks explores the underbelly of San Francisco, which contains all of the seedy elements that make a good mystery.
Fans of both mystery and historical fiction will like this read, and for those who do like One-Eyed Jacks, I would recommend a couple of other sleuthing authors found in Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson and Dan Simmons’ Crook Factory, along with Hall’s other Bierce novels.
Ms. Harvey ’97
Current Practicum Student~University of Tennessee’s School of Information Science working in the Holland Library