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Writers back on the trail

John HartChris Enss (left) and JoAnn Chartier pose in costumes from the era covered in their latest historical text, ?Love Untamed: Romances of the Old West,? which they?ll read from Wednesday in Grass Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Gold Rush-era co-authors JoAnn Chartier and Chris Enss act as if they were twins.

They’re not, but the two have been friends and finishing each others sentences since the early 1990s, when they both worked at radio station KNCO.

After more than 10 years, Chartier and Enss treasure both their friendship and their business relationship.



The two worked for 18 months on their second historical book, “Love Untamed: Romances of the Old West,” which has been in bookstores since June.

Chartier even spent her two-week vacation last year driving 2,000 miles to gather research for “Love Untamed.” She visited museums and historical archives in Montana, Washington, Utah, Idaho and Nevada.




It wasn’t a relaxing vacation, although “I did learn to drive like a trucker,” she quipped last week. She wouldn’t have traded the “vacation” for a less stressful one, she said, because she uncovered heretofore unpublished stories that made driving up to 10 hours at a time worth it.

In Montana, for example, Chartier met an elderly woman who dispensed anecdotal tales about copper king Marcus Daly and his wife, Margaret, a couple who met each other when she literally fell into his arms on an incline shaft in Ophir, Utah.

The authors are touring California, Nevada, Texas, Arizona and Missouri to promote “Love Untamed.” They have a book signing Wednesday here in their hometown.

As they tell some of their favorite stories at Odyssey Books in Grass Valley, don’t expect the book signing to be serious. Get the two authors together and they crack each other up within minutes.

“We get excited at these readings and go off the script. It’s very entertaining,” Chartier said, to which Enss nonchalantly added: “If it gets boring, we’ll pick up something in the store to read from.”

Expect the two authors in full 1800s attire to resemble a comedy team rapidly throwing out little-known Western history gems.

“I have the harlots; JoAnn has the ladies. It’s a smattering of both,” Enss said.

The two authors, who feel like sisters, complement each other well.

Enss said Chartier has a marvelous writing style that is “romantic, Hemingwayesque and very detail-oriented,” while Chartier commends her co-author’s brilliance in coming up with the book’s concepts, marketing and follow-up.

“I write screenplays where I have to quickly get in and out of scenes,” Enss said. “Whereas JoAnn will write, ‘They glanced longingly into each other’s eyes,’ I’m at ‘They gave each other a knowing look.'”

But if the authors don’t share the same writing style, they definitely share the same passion. They consider history thoroughly fascinating. Chartier minored in art history and Enss – who has worked as a stand-up comedian – says she minored in quality footwear. Enss did dedicate their first book to her high school history teacher.

“History is the foundation that the future is built on. You know what, that’s why it’s important,” Chartier said. “It’s interesting, it’s entertaining, and it also provides a pattern for us to learn from.”

Enss agreed history is a learning experience.

“We can learn from where we’ve been,” Enss said, “so we don’t repeat it. I don’t want to personally be in a wagon train. I don’t want to go back to a time where there was no modern-day plumbing.”


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