"The Outer Coast" hid half-a-continent away from America's population centers in 1769, when Richard Batman's narrative begins. It was the far ocean, the far land, "the extreme edge of the world," extending from Mexico to Alaska. It was also busy, with various entrepreneurs and nations seeking to exploit and possess it.
California was its core: California for sea otters; California for hides; California for land. And for characters.
Batman's cast is remarkable. Some--Padre Junipero Serra, Capt. James Cook, Daniel Boone, Mariano Vallejo--are well known. Others are not: Lewis Burton, who while asleep, "delivered long narratives, orations, and even sermons, but when he awoke he remembered nothing," or "El Cojo" Smith, who amputated his own foot, extracting the protruding bone with a pair of bullet-mold forceps.
Mariners loom large in the history of the outer coast, men like Joe O'Cain, who established the contract system for gathering sea otter pelts, and Richard Henry Dana, whose classic "Two Years Before the Mast" is summarized in Batman's pages, were two of many involved in the constant sniping at Hispanic authority from the sea.
While Batman's writing style is not scintillating--strangely repetitive in places--it is generally crisp, and Batman manages some memorable sections. Describing the 1789 confrontation at Nootka Sound between Capt. James Colnett and Capt. Esteban Jose Martinez that nearly led to war between England and Spain, he summarizes with considerable irony: "Thus we finally have it, the story of two innocent men, each trying to remain calm and reasonable only to be outraged by the arrogant and unreasonable behavior of the other." Human nature seems not to have changed much in 200 years.