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Making Tracks

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As a former rider of the Montrealer, I was delighted to find that Terry Pindell dedicated part of the introduction of his marvelous book, MAKING TRACKS, to describing a trip on that line. He wonderfully invokes somnambulistic waits on a dimly lit platform of a New England Amtrak station; the excitement of finding a set in a darkened coach at 3:00 A.M.; the eeriness of watching middle-of-the-night activities in the industrial section of a New England city. Riding the Montrealer is an otherworldly, if not a 100 percent safe, experience. Pindell goes on to describe the existing passenger lines (the best and the worst) in the United States, weaving in his descriptions elements of folklore and history that are sure to delight the reader anxious for an armchair adventure.

Pindell deftly links the most appropriate historical aside to his narratives about the various passenger lines. For example, in his description of the Crescent, a passenger line that runs through the heart of the Deep South, Pindell moves from an interlude of reading a William Faulkner story to the history of the train route: “William Faulkner’s great-grandfather founded the railroad for which my grandfather worked. Colonel William Falkner wrote a novel, commanded Confederate troops in the war, and used his stirring oratory to inspire fellow Mississippians to support the building of a line that would eventually stretch from Mobile to New Orleans through Meridian to St. Louis and Chicago. It came to be known as the Rebel Route, and its history aptly seems a rebel yell of victorious defiance.”

Like Dayton Duncan’s OUT WEST, Terry Pindell’s MAKING TRACKS is an epic adventure encompassing the most intriguing aspects of America. Pindell’s accounts miss no details, and the acquaintances he makes on his rail travels become the reader’s acquaintances as well.