Praise for Two Trains Running:
"Shepard effortlessly works the potential for supernatural experience into the unpredictability of his social outcasts' fringe existence. The stories are fantasy writing at its best . . ."
— Publishers Weekly
"In this short but resonant book, Shepard has captured the essence of the hobo experience, recreating it with sympathy, humor and a merciless, unsentimental precision."
— Bill Sheehan, The Washington Post Book World
". . . this collection packs the emotional punch of a book twice its size."
— The Denver Post
Every author worth his weight absolutely must do some degree of research in preparation for the next piece to be written. Sometimes, just living in one's own neighborhood amidst a typical, albeit quirky, group of neighbors is sufficient fodder for ideas and content. But more often than not, the writer must physically visit — and thus experience — the locale about which he writes.
In early 1998, author Lucius Shepard — winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards for his evocative, and provocative, short fiction — embarked on a new journey . . . Shepard joined the "hobo nation" — riding the rails throughout the western half of the United States, his "neighbors" the disenfranchised, the homeless, the punks, the gangs, and the joy riders. At the time, the Freight Train Riders of America (FTRA) were making headlines across the country: Were they an organized gang using the U.S. rail system to rape and murder, to smuggle illegal drugs, and to terrorize unsuspecting train-hoppers? Or, were the FTRA members simply a "brotherhood," united for support and companionship only? While investigating the facts for an article that appeared in the July 1998 issue of Spin, Shepard traveled the rails with FTRA members Missoula Mike and Madcat for the inside story.
The author then gathered together these facts, along with rumors and innuendos, and melded them into his fiction, thus creating this unique collection of fact and fiction entitled Two Trains Running. In addition to "The FTRA Story" — unedited and expanded from its original Spin appearance — this volume also contains two novellas written in Shepard's award-winning inimitable style: "Over Yonder" and "Jailbait," the latter novella published here for the first time.
In "Over Yonder" — winner of the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best SF story of the year — suffering alcoholic Billy Long Gone chases a stranger, who supposedly stole his dog, onto a black train — a train like no other Billy had ever seen or rode: a living train. As Billy travels on this train, his health improves and his thinking clears. The train passes through strange, arabesque, monster-infested landscapes as it journeys to Yonder — a likely paradise where a few hundred hobos live within the confines of a majestic tree in apparent peace and tranquility. But every paradise has its price, and in Yonder, peace and tranquility breed complacency and . . . startling deaths. "Over Yonder" brilliantly showcases Shepard's world-building skills in a story that serves as a metaphor for every human's soul-searching questions: Why are we here? Is this life after death? Is there something beyond paradise?
A hardcore tale of deception, lust, revenge, and murder, "Jailbait" takes us into the seedy underbelly of rail yards and train hopping: Madcat, who functions best in a whiskey-induced haze, must decide between solitude and companionship when he meets up with Grace, an under-aged runaway. Grace, in turn, seeks the security of an older man and the life about which only young girls can dream.
In Two Trains Running, author Lucius Shepard juxtaposes fact and fiction — and ultimately reality and imagination — in this new collection of stunningly picaresque tales of redemptive life on the rails. With a 2300-word Introduction in which the author examines the hobo myth of "The Steel."
Cover art by John Picacio.
Praise for the author's previous Golden Gryphon Press book, Louisiana Breakdown:
"It takes enormous skill to make the rich hollow bluesy particularities of a setting such as Grail, Louisiana, a convincing microcosm of all human life, and vast creative courage to face the heart of darkness within romantic love as clear-sightedly as it is faced here." — Nick Gevers
"Over Yonder" — Winner of the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Story of the Year!
Cloth, ISBN: 1-930846-23-1
Out of Print
Read the Publishers Weekly review
Read the Booklist review
Read Peter Heck's review in Asimov's Science Fiction
Read the Denver Post review
Read Cheryl Morgan's review in Emerald City online
(Scroll down to the "Riding the Rails" header)
Read the infinity plus review
Read the Kansas City Star review
Read the Locus review
Read Bill Sheehan's review in the Washington Post Book World
Read Don D'Ammassa's review in (Science Fiction) Chronicle
Read the review on SFRevu
Read the SF Site review
Read the Ticonderoga Online review
Read the review in Midwest Book Review
Read the Lucius Shepard interview in the Austin American-Statesman
View the original sketch and wraparound dust jacket art by John Picacio