Review of Gold is the Key

Posted by BrayBree Publishing on 1/4/2013 to News
Review of Gold is the Key
Thomas L. Aud’s book Gold is the Key - Murder, Robbery, and the Gold Rush in Jackson, Tennessee was reviewed in the latest issue of the Tennessee Libraries journal:

In 1859, a bank robbery in Jackson, TN resulted in the loss of over $20,000 in gold coins and other currency as well as the brutal murder of a young bank clerk named George Miller with a bank cancelling hammer. The community was horrified, but investigations by police and local media resulted in few leads and no arrests. While the event haunted those who were living in Jackson at the time, the case was mostly forgotten—at least until 1985 when city workers found a treasure of buried gold coins that date back to the time of the robbery.

In Gold is the Key: Murder, Robbery, and the Gold Rush in Jackson, Tennessee, author Thomas L. Aud (Archivist of Madison County, TN) seeks to provide a cultural context for the robbery in addition to his main task of attempting to solve this 150 year-old mystery. It is clear that Aud conducted painstaking research using primary artifacts such as diaries, census records, and newspaper clippings, and he has incorporated information from these sources in such a way that the book remains accessible to the casual reader as well as to the seasoned veteran of historical research.  Selections from these artifacts are reproduced in the book’s multiple appendices.

Aud’s book, while a unique and valuable contribution to this subject, is not without its flaws though. While cultural history and context can certainly be of value to the reader, the focus on it in this book is sometimes excessive and distracting, thus giving the reader a sense that the author is padding a slender volume with “filler.” Furthermore, while no one can fault Aud with not being able to come to a firm conclusion to who was guilty of the robbery and murder, his conclusions do underwhelm. The concluding chapter putting forth theories and possibilities is¬ truly a disappointment—coming in at a mere eight pages, giving Mr. Aud’s theories, hunches, and deductions short shrift. For a book that gives considerable attention to many details of life in Jackson during this time period that are ephemeral at best to the main narrative; cramming in the most important part of the book in so few pages is a real detriment to the book and its readers.

Notwithstanding these qualms, this highly readable and well documented book stands as an important contribution to a mostly forgotten incident from Tennessee history. While this work will clearly be of particular interest to those near Jackson, TN, it can easily be recommended for readers of both general Tennessee history and of non-fiction historical mysteries and is well-suited for libraries of all types and sizes.

Ben Neal, Assistant Branch Manager
Thomas Memorial Library, Sullivan County Public Library System

Thank you very much to Mr. Neal for the review!