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On Sunday, the 8th of October, 1865, the earth trembled and heaved under the city of San Francisco.
Just minutes after the first rumblings of the Great Quake of 1865, a vicious battle is about to erupt on the Barbary Coast between the police and the notorious Sons of 49ers gang.
Buford McKinley has just recently returned home to San Francisco from his duties as a Civil War correspondent. Buford returns from one war only to discover that another war just as brutal and deadly is about to take place on the streets of San Francisco. He becomes the target of an assassination attempt by an unknown assailant along a Barbary Coast alley as the quake rocks him to his knees. Wounded and seeking refuge from the quake, he is about to be caught in the crossfire of a street battle and he tries to find a way to prevent it from breaking out.
Buford McKinley had brought home with him to San Francisco, his battlefield runner, Tim Plunkett; an 18 year old boy from the back woods of Tennessee. Not long after his arrival in San Francisco, Tim becomes involved in an unholy business alliance with Naiomi Quinlan and her aunt Jewel, a self described Louisiana witch, up at the Quinlan mansion on Rincon Hill.
Tim is ordered to entertain this French singer at Jewel's guest house. Tim is shaken out of bed by the quake. He discovers the Frenchman lying on the bed beside him with Tim's bowie knife buried deep into his skull. Tim cannot recall the events of the previous evening so that he is not certain that he murdered the Frenchman, but he is sure that he has to find a way to hide the body and create an alibi to cover himself for a murder he is not sure he committed.
Buford McKinley tries to convince the gang members that they cannot win against the police and begs them to surrender. He learns from the boys that his teenage son, Jake, has found out about the assassination attempt on his father's life. Jake has stolen Buford's gun from his desk and is on the prowl to find the man he believes to have hired the assassin.
As the fateful Sabbath day progresses and the city manages to recover from the earthquake, Buford McKinley and Tim Plunkett race to find Jake and prevent the worst from happening.
Included in this novel is a bonus chapter: Author's notes, which features the author's riveting eyewitness account of the October 1989 Loma Prieta Quake in San Francisco.