It is the beginning of a new century and the times are swiftly changing. The eyes of the world are on Panama where 20,000 have already died digging the Canal that will alter history and usher in the future. In a thrilling follow-up to his critically-acclaimed debut novel Panama Fever: Digging Down Gold Mountain, W. B. Garvey continues the story of the perilous thirty-year effort to bridge the world s two great oceans. White Gold tells the electrifying saga of the machinists, masons, powder-gangs, cooks and mechanics who flocked to Panama to build the Canal and how in their quest to reshape the world they risked it all for an enticing dream and the sake of love. A profoundly human story, White Gold will appeal to those with a taste for romance and adventure as well as anyone who has ever dared to pursue the dream of a better life.
White Gold centers around William Roberson, an ambitious young railroad engineer from Jamaica who struggles to build a better life but finds himself caught between Winifred, his Jamaican wife who cannot abide life in Panama with the Jim Crow laws being imposed by the Americans, and Isabella, his Panamanian mistress, who teaches him that there is more to life than duty and his beloved machines.
Young Roberson, inspired by the tales of his older cousin, Thomas Judah, leaves home at the brink of the 20th century determined to make a life for himself as an engineer and be part of the revived Canal construction. Setting out at the age of 16, he is taken under the wing of Edward Bower, a master mechanic returning from Jamaica to again work in Panama. Unbeknownst to Roberson, his career is being quietly guided by his cousin Thomas and Henri Duvay, the French engineer who has remained in Panama obsessed with seeing the Canal completed.
The arrival of the Americans brings a new influx of West Indian workers, among them 15 year old Boy-Boy, who arrives from Barbados to join his father, an old friend of Byron. The ambitious teenager hopes to earn enough to pay for college and become a teacher, but just as conditions in Panama start to improve, the Americans begin to apply their Jim Crow practices to the Canal employees, and Boy-Boy abandons both his dreams and his beautiful fiancée after being attacked and disfigured by a racist foreman. After a brief visit home in 1907, Roberson returns to find his status on the Canal has been drastically downgraded and his newly-wed Jamaican bride Winifred, who cannot abide the indignities she sees steadily increasing, returns to Jamaica to raise their son, leaving Roberson alone in Panama.
At a New Year s Eve celebration Roberson is reintroduced to Isabella, the woman he met and fell in love with during his early years in Panama. They rekindle their love, despite the dangers and the need to keep the affair a secret from Isabella s aunt, Estelle Morales, a wealthy saloon and bordello owner who has ties to the powerful politicians and businessmen in charge of the Canal and the country.
As the treatment of the West Indian and African American workers on the Canal continues to deteriorate, Roberson becomes involved in efforts to unite the workers, allying with labor leaders from Europe and South America, and putting himself and Isabella in further danger.
Garvey s electrifying new novel celebrates the optimism and grit of the men and women who bring their hopes and dreams to Panama, sure that with the Americans in charge both they and the Canal will eventually triumph.
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About the Author
W. B. Garvey is a relative of the Jamaican National Hero, Marcus Garvey and the author of the critically acclaimed historical novel PANAMA FEVER: DIGGING DOWN GOLD MOUNTAIN. While going through his father's papers, Garvey learned that his grandfather had been a railroad engineer on the construction of the Panama Canal, sparking years of research that led to his two related historical novels, PANAMA FEVER and WHITE GOLD. Garvey is an honors graduate of the University of Southern California and has lived in Los Angeles, Kingston Jamaica and London England. He now lives and writes in New York City.