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A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage: A Story Paperback – 10 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (10 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393324494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393324495
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.1 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,017,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Twain is the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 - 1910). He was born and brought up in the American state of Missouri and, because of his father's death, he left school to earn his living when he was only twelve. He was a great adventurer and travelled round America as a printer; prospected for gold and set off for South America to earn his fortune. He returned to become a steam-boat pilot on the Mississippi River, close to where he had grown up. The Civil War put an end to steam-boating and Clemens briefly joined the Confederate army - although the rest of his family were Unionists! He had already tried his hand at newspaper reporting and now became a successful journalist. He started to use the alias Mark Twain during the Civil War and it was under this pen name that he became a famous travel writer. He took the name from his steam-boat days - it was the river pilots' cry to let their men know that the water was two fathoms deep.

Mark Twain was always nostalgic about his childhood and in 1876 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published, based on his own experiences. The book was soon recognised as a work of genius and eight years later the sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was published. The great writer Ernest Hemingway claimed that 'All modern literature stems from this one book.'

Mark Twain was soon famous all over the world. He made a fortune from writing and lost it on a typesetter he invented. He then made another fortune and lost it on a bad investment. He was an impulsive, hot-tempered man but was also quite sentimental and superstitious. He was born when Halley's Comet was passing the Earth and always believed he would die when it returned - this is exactly what happened.


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About the Author

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), best known to the world by his pen-name Mark Twain, was an author and humorist, noted for his novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876, among many others. Roy Blount Jr.'s recent books include the memoir Be Sweet and Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor. Peter de Seve's illustrations have appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, and he has created characters for Disney and Dreamworks. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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UPON THE BORDER OF A REMOTE AND OUT-OF-THE-WAY village in south-western Missouri lived an old farmer named John Gray. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
Those who read The Atlantic Monthly will probably be curious about how this book compares with the material that appeared in the August 2001 issue. As best I can tell, the primary differences are in the illustrations. The book has four larger facsimile pages of the manuscript while the magazine material had two smaller ones. The book has 9 water color illustrations while the magazine has three. Obviously, a bound book is a more handsome item than part of a magazine. But anyone who is interested in this book might want to examine the magazine version first.
The "Skeleton Novelette" will probably seem to most people like just a slightly more developed version of a short story. Its text encompasses 8 magazine pages.
By itself, this work would attract relatively little attention except for its newness to the reader. What makes the story appealing are the foreword and afterword by Roy Blount, Jr. Combined, these essays are longer than the story.
The foreword explains the history of how the work came to be written and published. Of particular relevance is the reference to Mark Twain's "How to Tell a Story." Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, depending on your preference) wrote that "the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it." Mr. Twain warns that "the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way . . . ." The risk, naturally, in using this approach is that the reader will fail to grasp or appreciate the snapper.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Sept. 2001
Format: Audio Cassette
Those who read The Atlantic Monthly will probably be curious about how this book compares with the material that appeared in the August 2001 issue. As best I can tell, the primary differences are in the illustrations. The book has four larger facsimile pages of the manuscript while the magazine material had two smaller ones. The book has 9 water color illustrations while the magazine has three. Obviously, a bound book is a more handsome item than part of a magazine. But anyone who is interested in this book might want to examine the magazine version first.
The "Skeleton Novelette" will probably seem to most people like just a slightly more developed version of a short story. Its text encompasses 8 magazine pages.
By itself, this work would attract relatively little attention except for its newness to the reader. What makes the story appealing are the foreword and afterword by Roy Blount, Jr. Combined, these essays are longer than the story.
The foreword explains the history of how the work came to be written and published. Of particular relevance is the reference to Mark Twain's "How to Tell a Story." Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, depending on your preference) wrote that "the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it." Mr. Twain warns that "the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way . . . ." The risk, naturally, in using this approach is that the reader will fail to grasp or appreciate the snapper.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
not impressed and not disappointed 3 Jan. 2002
By Randy Keehn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am a major fan of Twain and have always held him in the highest esteem. His "The Mysterious Stranger" got me through some tough times in college with the help of other books such as "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" IS the Great American Novel. There is little left of his that I haven't read and just when you think you've read all his best stuff, another short story comes out of nowhere and totally amazes you with his insight. This is not one of those stories. However, it's not bad and it's a nice enough way to spend an hour or so. Bear in mind that the Preface and Afterword are together longer than the story itself. There is some nice information about Twain and the the times in which this story was written but it isn't essential that you read them. Twain had an idea of taking a basic, simple plot and having 20 or so other authors of his era write their version of the story. (OK, I DID get that much out of the Preface and Afterword). His motion, however, died for lack of a second and we are left with this; his briefly written entry. It reminded me a lot of his style in "The Gilded Age". That book was too long and this book is too short but the story has an interesting twist to it. The moment I saw this book on the shelves I bought it and I have no regrets. If you're a fan of Twain's, you should buy it too. After all, if you act quickly, you too can have a first edition of Mark Twain.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A New Perspective, A Challenge, and a Snapper! 4 Sept. 2001
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Those who read The Atlantic Monthly will probably be curious about how this book compares with the material that appeared in the August 2001 issue. As best I can tell, the primary differences are in the illustrations. The book has four larger facsimile pages of the manuscript while the magazine material had two smaller ones. The book has 9 water color illustrations while the magazine has three. Obviously, a bound book is a more handsome item than part of a magazine. But anyone who is interested in this book might want to examine the magazine version first.
The "Skeleton Novelette" will probably seem to most people like just a slightly more developed version of a short story. Its text encompasses 8 magazine pages.
By itself, this work would attract relatively little attention except for its newness to the reader. What makes the story appealing are the foreword and afterword by Roy Blount, Jr. Combined, these essays are longer than the story.
The foreword explains the history of how the work came to be written and published. Of particular relevance is the reference to Mark Twain's "How to Tell a Story." Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, depending on your preference) wrote that "the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it." Mr. Twain warns that "the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way . . . ." The risk, naturally, in using this approach is that the reader will fail to grasp or appreciate the snapper.
You will also learn how Mark Twain conceived of this story in 1876 as his entry into a challenge against the leading writers of the day, including potentially William Dean Howells (The Atlantic Monthly's editor and his friend), Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and Bret Harte. Mr. Twain charged Mr. Howells with interesting the other authors. Although Mr. Howells did his best, the project went nowhere. Fascinated by it, Mr. Twain went on to write his version. Mr. Twain had already written Tom Sawyer and was about halfway through Huckleberry Finn at this time. Mr. Twain did not pick up writing on Huckleberry Finn again until 1879 or 1880, and it was not published until 1885.
The story itself is an unusual one for its time. As the title indicates, there's a murder and a mystery. The story also leads to a marriage, as the title also indicates. I can remember few short stories with so much action and diversity in them. The story also has several other unusual elements that I cannot comment upon without spoiling the story for you.
The site of the story is Deer Lick, Missouri (which will remind most of Hannibal, Missouri. Two young people are interested in marrying, Mary Gray (aged 20) and young Hugh Gregory (aged 27). Mary's father, John, has his eye on the potential money involved. Young Hugh Gregory's father is one of the wealthiest men in the area, second only to John's estranged brother David. Complications arise that shift John's idea of how to get the most for his daughter.
The story will strike many as strange. It takes a darker view of humanity than exists in Tom Sawyer. The afterword does a good job of addressing that shift. It has some unexpected elements which are also well explained in the afterword. I highly recommend it to you.
As to the snapper, I thought it was out in plain sight all along. The answer to the "mystery" also seemed pretty obvious to me in its simplest form. Neither element worked well for me. As a result, I graded the story down to three stars. For although it is done by one of our greatest American writers, I don't think that most will find it to be an example of his best writing. In its twists and turns, it will remind you of O. Henry's irony, but not as skillfully done. There's a meanness here that pervades the story that reduces its power. I thought the foreword, afterword and illustrations were five star efforts. So I averaged all that to my four star rating.
If you liked either Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you will probably be glad you read this story. It provides some interesting insights into the shifts within the focus of Huckleberry Finn.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you think about where in your life you try to make too big an impression, and reduce the effect. Try doing less.
Be open to the letting the reader or listener supply more of the appeal to a story or review by extending their imagination, rather than forcing it in a certain direction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Unpublished for a reason 10 Jun. 2003
By Steve Bryant - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Finding an unpublished piece by Mark Twain is reason to celebrate, but that doesn't mean its shortcomings should be ignored. Though the story begins well and has an interesting set up, the ending is abrupt and does not fit well with what has gone before. More was needed to make this a coherent and, more importantly, an interesting read. For reasons unexplained Mark Twain ended this story savaging Jules Verne. I never read any opinions he had on Verne but would be interested in finding them, should they exist. This story is only worth reading as a curiosity. However, after doing so, one understands why Twain chose to let it languish on the shelf.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The story itself and the few pictures are great 4 Sept. 2001
By Eric Wong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Twain's story is great and, as would be expected, artfully and very well written. The drawings by Peter de Seve and the pictures of Twain's handwritten manuscript are wonderful. The problem is that as you read Twain's story you hope that it continues, but then you suddenly realize that you've reached the afterword, which fills up more than half of the entire book. I know nothing about serious literary analysis, but I do know that it is frustrating to go from a thoroughly enjoyable read to a cumbersome and awkward afterword that is literally longer than the work itself. Maybe stuffy intellectuals will find Blount's writing satisfying, but for the average reader, a route canal would be preferable. Twain's story and the pictures get 3 out of 3 stars, and that's it--minus 2 because of the rest. A work can still be placed in its proper historical context without being overly wordy and frankly boring. It should be called A Foreword and Afterword by Roy Blount Jr. with (by the way) a story by Mark Twain. Pick up the book and look at the pictures, then read the story as it was published in The Atlantic over the summer.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Short Enough To Look Past Its Faults 13 Aug. 2012
By Mimbelina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This short story by Mark Twain, discovered years after his other works were published, tells of a farmer in Deer Lick, Missouri who stumbles upon a Frenchman lying unconscious in the snow, miles from any nearby structure and without any footprints or tracks around him to explain his appearance. The Farmer, John Gray, aids the confused man, taking him home to be nursed by his wife and daughter. There, they learn his name and, as he settles into town, gradually learn that he is of noble birth, forced to flee his homeland for political reasons. The family warms to him, including the beautiful young Mary. His courtship is unfruitful, however, for her heart belongs to a previous suitor. Though she has been forbidden to marry him due to the prejudice of an uncle who has settled his estate on her, Mary remains faithful to her lover. But will she stand by him when his reputation is stained with blood? Or will she finally give in to the Count's pursuit?

A quick read, I found this short story fun and, though not one of Twain's best works, entertaining enough to be worth the short time it took to read it. The mystery isn't hard to solve but the excitement that builds at the climax of the story is drawn out perfectly and really adds to the enjoyment of the book. All in all, a nice bit of fiction to fill in an hour on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
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