David Baldacci's The Christmas Train - Excerpt
Though he’d won major awards, he believed he wasn’t a writer with the ability to create memorable prose that would stand tall and strong over the eons. Not like Mark Twain. Yet to have even a marginal connection to the creator of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, and The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg, a man whose work was timeless, made Tom feel wonderfully, if vicariously, special.
Shortly before he died, Tom’s father had asked his son to ﬁnish something that, according to legend, Twain never had. As his father told it, Mark Twain, who probably traveled more than any man of his time, had taken a transcontinental railroad trip over the Christmas season during the latter part of his life, his so-called dark years. Apparently he’d wanted to see some good in the world amid all the tragedy he and his family had suffered. He’d supposedly taken extensive notes about the trip but for some reason had never distilled them into a story. That’s what Tom’s father had asked him to do: take the train ride, write the story, ﬁnish what Twain never had, and do the Langdon side of the family proud.
At the time Tom had just ﬁnished a frantic twenty-hour plane odyssey from overseas to see his dad before he passed. When Tom heard his mumbled request, he was struck dumb.
Travel across the country on a train during Christmas, to ﬁnish something Mark Twain allegedly hadn’t? He had thought his father delirious with his ﬁnal suffering, and so his dad’s wish went unfulﬁlled. Yet now, because he could no longer ﬂy in the Lower Forty-eight unless he was ﬁngerprinted and shackled, he was ﬁnally going to take that trip for his old man, and maybe for himself too.
Over almost three thousand miles of America, he was going to see if he could ﬁnd himself. He was doing it during the Christmas season because that was supposed to be a time of renewal and, for him perhaps, a last chance to clean up whatever mess he’d made of himself. At least he was going to try.
However, had he known what life-altering event would happen to him barely two hours after he boarded the train, he might have opted to walk to California instead.
Get the details on the movie "The Christmas Train," a Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation starring Dermot Mulroney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Danny Glover, & Joan Cusack. Premiering Saturday, November 25 at 8/7c, on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.