Richard Wiley

Fools' Gold

Fools' Gold brings together a variegated cast of characters in one of the last outposts of the American frontier, Alaska, during the gold rush of the 1890s. They include Finn Wallace, an Irishman in his forties, nineteen years gone from his homeland, with ambitions to build a town… Ellen, a young Irishwoman, big-boned and quick to judge, the proprietor of the only bathhouse in Nome… Henriette, an American girl paid court by two surprising (and surprised) suitors… Kaneda, a Japanese prospector, who knows everything about gold but nothing about English, and who recites, for anyone who will listen all he knows of the history of Japan… Fujino, Kaneda's assistant and translator… John Hummel, a scurvy man who discovers gold on the beach and is murderously angry when his claim is denied… the Revered Raymond, a preacher so inspired by story that his sermons escape him, creating characters unknown to the Bible (such as Andrew the Suicidal)… and Phil, an Eskimo who sees all the others as outsiders, and yet who recognizes in Kaneda much that is familiar, even if he cannot understand a single word the prospector says. Over the course of a few wintry months, they all make vital discoveries, some precious beyond the riches they came to find.


On St. Patrick’s Day in 1968, sixteen people sit in Pat’s Tavern, drink green beer, flirt, rib each other, and eventually go home in (mostly) different directions. In the stories that follow, which span 1958 to the present, Richard Wiley pops back into the lives of this colorful cast of characters—sometimes into their pasts, sometimes into their futures—and explores the ways in which their individual narratives indelibly weave together. At the heart of it all lies Tacoma, Washington, a town full of eccentricities and citizens as unique as they are universal. The Tacoma of Tacoma Stories might be harboring paranoid former CIA operatives and wax replicas of dead husbands, but it is also a place with all the joys and pains one could find in any town, anytime and anywhere.
Dr. Ruby Okada meets Bob Stevenson, a charming man with a Scottish accent, in the elevator of her psychiatric hospital. Unaware that he is an escaping patient, she falls under his spell, and her life and his are changed forever by the time they get to the street.
Ruth Rhodes is suddenly confronted by the man who raped her four years earlier, and must come clean with both herself and her husband, while he negotiates the grief and mystery surrounding the murder of his own mother. The rapist, meanwhile, stands atop this narrative, telling his side of the story in diabolically captivating ways.
Two American minstrels visit Japan and get caught in Machiavellian machinations at the opening of the country in 1854.
American Jazz musicians drafted into the Japanese army during World War II. Pen/Faulkner Award winner.
World travelers meet and clash in Nome, Alaska at the end of the 19th Century.
The raucous tale of a mid-1960s Peace Corps Volunteer living in a Korean Village.
American school principal involves himself in Nigerian intrigue and politics.
Ivory and animals on a Kenyan farm. Out of Africa in the modern age.

Interviews, etc.