Thanks to author Maria E. Brower for the use of her map of Nevada County and Kimball M Sterling auctioneers for the photo of the unique silver-headed cane.


by Kalen Vaughan Johnson

Gold Rush California’s notorious “Legislature of a Thousand Drinks” launches a secret consortium of frontier barons, triggering the collapse of independent mines throughout Sierra Nevada.

James MacLaren, a fugitive from Scotland, embarks on a new life in California, escaping his secrets but not his hatred for the upper class. He is a man always on his guard, leery of the entitled and wary of his own temper. While raising a beautiful, headstrong daughter, and denying his love for a woman he cannot have, he champions miners in their fight against the Coleridge Sierra speculators seeking to maneuver a mining industry monopoly.

San Francisco Judge Dandridge sees himself as a man of vision. But when retributions fail in his courtroom, reparations are administered in the back rooms of vigilante justice. His venal and mercenary machinations tie him to the powerful Sam Brannan, the Chinese Tong and a shadowy control of the governorship of California.

Robbing the Pillars is a story of the working class fighting for legitimacy against a legacy of gold and all it seduces – a tale of hidden pasts, love and betrayal, and the fulfillment of dreams against incredible odds.

Robbing the Pillars is the first book in The Empire Barons series.

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Quail Ridge BooksIndie Bound, or Amazon 

Editorial Reviews for Robbing the Pillars

“This is a powerful, American melodrama with strong, fearless characters willing to endure anything to realize their dream of striking it rich in California’s Gold Rush country in the 1860’s. In Robbing the Pillars, author Kalen Vaughan Johnson introduces readers to a gritty but admirable fugitive who has escaped Scotland to start life anew in the Sierra Foothills. On the other side of that lofty goal are political figures in San Francisco seeking to rid the land of independent miners and seize their riches. Robbing the Pillars is a story of hard-working men fighting for legitimacy against the power of gold and those it seduces. Vaughan Johnson’s prose is bold and the story she tells is compelling.”

True West Magazine
Chris Enss, New York Times Best Selling author

“This Chronicle of the relentless progress of a frontier community makes for compelling reading, providing a fascinating look at a unique place and time in the nation’s history.”

Foreward Reviews

“A sweeping look at personal idealism and autonomy pitted against the forces of greed and manipulation, Robbing the Pillars is an emotive family saga solidly rooted in the American dream.”

Chanticleer Reviews (Rating: 5 of 5)

“Johnson not only gives us a fascinating portrait of a man determined to carve out a life for himself despite every obstacle, but she also presents a richly detailed vision of part of America’s past. The characters aren’t merely historical figures who move stiffly across the pages; they are living, breathing people filled with joy, hope, and despair . . . For me, the Gold Rush was pretty abstract until I read Robbing the Pillars.”

San Francisco Book Review (Star Rating: 5/5)

Quotes From Characters in Robbing the Pillars

“Ye got greedy. We’ve worked together ta avoid this very thing. How many? Put at risk today? Because ye were foolish? Robbing the pillars, yet again. It’s bad enough ye’ve torn up the entire hillside above the city. Trying for the last little bits, and when ye cu na reach far enough down, ye tried ta cheat yer way out, grab the last few dollars as ye backed out. The most dangerous tactic there is . . .”

~ James MacLaren ~filigree4

“After all gentlemen, what is it we are exploiting? Only greed. It seems logical for theirs to be channeled appropriately to feed ours.”

~ Dutton Dandridge ~filigree4

“There is no advantage to beauty. It attracts the wrong sorts of men with the worst motives and the begrudging bitterness of other women.”

~ Althea Albright ~filigree4

“With our ‘Legislature of a thousand drinks’, California is ridiculed. Is it any wonder we attract the least serviceable of public servants? Miscreants attracting thugs just like themselves, like fleas on a dog. Honestly, I’m a judicial representative in a government that shames me.”

~ Judge Dandridge ~filigree4