We first meet Shannon and Clay Alexander as they confront jeopardy on their way to Queen Victoria's Birthday Celebration in Peking, China in 1900. Our heroine is seventeen, the stunning daughter of the American commercial attach . Our hero is twenty-four, a graceful, engaging Marine second lieutenant with great command presence, a gentle Carolina drawl and a Brevet Medal.
The events of that night are precursors of the conflicts that follow, since their lives are changed forever when Shannon contrives the circumstances that force Clay, against his will, to leave the Marine Corps. As the saga unfolds, they battle through the Boxer Rebellion in China, hear a prophecy that will impact their future, face danger alongside a future President and First Lady, and sail on a clipper ship with a brilliant, profane captain and his navigator-wife.
Surviving savage storms and an attack by Malay pirates, they reach California, and entrain for Los Angeles, on their way to their promised great estate in the Coachella Valley.
That "estate" proves to be a devastating fiction. The desert hamlet of Palm Springs has a population of sixteen white families suffering through drought, and a hundred Indians, still practicing their ancient rituals.
Shannon and Clay and their new friends -- a Jewish gunfighter-fabulist and his wife who become central to their lives, a one-armed Indian who delivers and ever-after nurtures the Alexander's first child, a predatory beauty and her unscrupulous brother, a retired madam married to a lay preacher-playwright, a wealthy young businessman who's in love with Shannon, and many more based on historical figures-- are all drawn together by communal interdependence, joyous occasions, and nature's bounty and fury. They are also swept up in war, adventure, murder, adultery, deception, tragedy and triumph.
Our hero and heroine are active participants, intimately involved in the turbulent events of the time when the automobile and the airplane were invented; the average American male lived to age 48; medical practice was shockingly bad; Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt touched Shannon's and Clay's lives; the Panama Canal and the California oil boom were central to their hopes for financial security; women's suffrage was fought for and won; a great flood created the Salton Sea; the robber barons and their corporations drove American policy; citrus began to blossom in the desert.
The Alexander's fortunes change dramatically when Shannon, through guile and hard work, clings to their thousand acres, and creates the first date plantation in the Coachella Valley; and Clay, taught to fly by a woman aviator, escapes with an astonishing, unforeseen reward after commanding a primitive squadron flying the first combat missions ever for Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution.
At novel's end, Shannon, Clay and their three children are poised to embark on a life enlarged and enriched by the challenge and promise of an awakening America.
About the Author
Ernest Frankel is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Private and served on active duty as a Platoon Commander on Okinawa during World War II, and as a staff officer in China. Recalled to active duty during the Korean War, he trained junior officers in the Marine OCS in Quantico. Returning to civilian life, he served as Commanding Officer of his Reserve Unit in Los Angeles. He received orders to report to the First Marine Division in Viet Nam for a special assignment. Awarded the Legion of Merit, he retired as a Colonel. He is the author of three novels, Band of Brothers, published by Macmillan, Tongue of Fire, published by Dial Press. And Gateway To Everywhere, available on Amazon. His work is included in Van Wyck Mason's Anthology of American War Literature. A member of the Writers' Guild and the Directors' Guild, he has worked extensively with the networks, serving as creator, writer, executive story consultant, line producer, supervising producer and executive producer on both series and movies-for-television.