The Sawdust House
Fremantle Press, $32.99 pb, 304 pp
In David Whish-Wilson’s new historical novel, The Sawdust House, it’s 1856 San Francisco, where the citizen-led Committee of Vigilance has convened to purge foreign undesirables from a city populace swollen beyond control by the gold rush. Of course, armed nativists ‘enthralled by their own performance’ are a common feature of U.S. history, from the Virginian lynch mobs of the late 1700s to that guy in the fuzzy Viking hat parading around the Capitol Building just last year. In an intriguing twist, however, the pitchforks are aimed this time at those ‘vermin from some hellish southern continent’, aka Australians, particularly a criminal element who congregate in a lawless quarter nicknamed Sydney-town.