Gregory Crouch

Gregory Crouch is a writer who specializes in adventurous and historic subjects. He is the author of the Comstock epic, The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle Over the Greatest Riches in the American West, the World War II flying adventure China’s Wings: War, Romance, Intrigue, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight, and the mountaineering memoir Enduring Patagonia. Crouch has published stories in The Atlantic, National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, Smithsonian, Time, American History, World War II, Islands, Outside, Popular Mechanics, Backpacker, Rock & Ice, Ascent, Alpinist, Climbing, and many other national and regional media. Also a regular book critic, he has reviewed more than 30 books for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review, and NPR Books, among others. Crouch is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and of U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools. He lives in Walnut Creek.

THE BONANZA KING is the rags-to-riches Old West tale of John Mackay, the penniless Irish immigrant who outwitted, outworked, and outmaneuvered thousands of rivals to take control of Nevada’s Comstock Lode, the rich body of gold and silver so immensely valuable—equivalent to more than $600 billion today—that it changed the destiny of the United States. Brought to the U.S. in 1840, when he was nine years old, Mackay grew up in New York City’s Five Points slum (“The Gangs of New York” neighborhood), came of age amid the violent mayhem of the California Gold Rush, and rose to the full power of his manhood in the deep, rich, and outrageously dangerous mines of the Comstock Lode beneath Virginia City, Nevada, the ultimate Old West boomtowns. On the Comstock, Mackay worked his way up from nothing, battling the pernicious “Bank Ring” of California capitalists who’d monopolized the lode, and struck the legendary Big Bonanza, a stupendously valuable body of gold and silver ore buried 1,500 feet below the center of the town. The extraordinary wealth Mackay mined from the Comstock Lode drove wild stock market frenzies in San Francisco and launched his wife, whose beginnings were every bit as humble as his own, on a meteoric social career among the finest European aristocrats. When John Mackay died in 1902—with a personal fortune equivalent to about $50 billion modern dollars—front page obituaries all over Europe and the United States hailed him as one of the most admired Americans of the age.

The Comstock Lode transformed San Francisco from a trading port into the innovative financial and industrial powerhouse it still is today. And if you know how to look, the modern city is filled with connections to the old Comstock Lode.