The Nisselinka Claims
Victoria: Friesen Press, 2015
The mineral exploration industry provides exceptional fodder for novels, with its colourful characters, exotic settings and quest driven intrigues. Yet this material has rarely been tapped by authors since B. Traven wrote The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in 1927, with the exception of some grim coal-industry novels such as John Grisham’s Gray Mountain. Retired geologist Robert Longe, a Life Member of AME BC, has strived to reverse this trend by writing The Nisselinka Claims, a fictional account of a family’s struggle to maintain and advance promising mineral claims in the Bulkley Valley region of northern British Columbia. The novel was an ambitious undertaking, as it covers three generations and many historical events that interrupted or complicated the family’s quest. Part 1, “Private Ventures,” reaches back to the 1860s, covers two world wars and ends in the 1970s. Part 2, “Public Company,” pits the persevering family against a high-profile promoter in the fast-paced and often ruthless junior mining market of the 1980s.
The story begins as settler Edward Wickford lays claim to copper and gold showings in the fictional Nisselinka Mountains. He later buys nearby Crown grants from an old prospector and secures financing to explore the land package. Despite some early success, the Great War and other events stymie Wickford’s development dreams. His son Jeffrey struggles to keep the claims through the Depression and the Second World War, and ultimately hands the torch to his own son, Ken, who takes over in 1983.
Part 2 of the novel is fast-paced and more engrossing than Part 1, which suffers from too much exposition and too many characters who don’t advance the narrative in a meaningful way. Character development is better, too, with the introduction of nuanced antagonists who thwart Ken’s persistent efforts to defend his family’s long-held claims. Rogues always spice up a story, and in this case they also raise the stakes for the likable protagonist, who faces both external threats and a test of his own character. The author does a good job of capturing the barrage of emotions that Ken experiences during his complex, high-stakes treasure hunt.
The Nisselinka Claims is an interesting read, particularly for people familiar with junior mining. The book is well researched from both historical and mining-industry perspectives, which brings rare authenticity to a fictional story. It also illuminates the colourful history of British Columbia and the vibrancy of the junior mining industry. The Nisselinka Claims is available from FriesenPress (friesenpress.com) and online bookstores in hardcover, soft-cover and e-book formats.
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