Gordon Snider explained that his most recent novel, The Hypnotist, takes place during the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. At that time, San Francisco was a wealthy, cosmopolitan, and growing city, sometimes referred to as the "Paris of North America". Market Street was a milieu of horse drawn carriages, horses, men dressed in suits wearing bowler hats and the ladies in elegant long dresses. Silent film movies were a curiosity, very few women worked and if they did, at low pay, certainly not equal to what a man would be paid. Coal, lumber and railroads created a significant population of Nouveau riche, moguls who had acquired considerable wealth and persons who were usually previously part of a lower socioeconomic rank, and that such wealth provided the means for the acquisition of goods or luxuries that were previously unobtainable.
San Francisco was essentially divided into three districts: High Society, Tenement and ChinaTown. The high society were the wealthy who had horses and stables, fancy chandeliers, went to the opera, hired chefs from Europe and sometimes they were called the "oysters and champagne" folks. The wealthy men had their mistresses in nearby cities and men's clubs were sanctuaries, no women allowed. They were desperate to be accepted as a part of high society; New York society snubbed them and saw them as being from the wild, Wild West, mining towns. One story New Yorkers loved to relate was that a wealthy man in San Francisco received a Venus statue from Europe and sent it back as it didn't have any arms.
The Tenement district, according to Snider's research, was rat infested, lacked sanitation, was smoky; a plague infested district filled with whiskey mills. Close to the ports was the infamous Barbary Coast, a wild saloon filled place along with strip tease joints and brothels. You took a chance to visit this wild and wooly area.
The third and most fascinating district was Chinatown ruled by the Chinese Tongs; a separate city within a city. Markets were filled with exotic foods, quite colorful, featuring underground passages and narrow alley ways. The windows were dirty and dingy with low lights partially concealing the inside sights of opium dens and brothels with "sing song" slave girls. It was indeed a sinister place.
April 18, 1906, was the date of the devastating earthquake. It was described as a 100 cannons all going off at the same time. Stone and brick buildings collapsed into rubble, gas mains broke and fires broke out and spread throughout the city; only controlled by dynamiting and back firing residential areas. Cattle were loose on the streets, some falling into huge crevices never to be seen again. The arriving army declared martial law with orders to shoot looters on sight. People were in shock roaming the streets with out a destination or place to go.