Bestselling Author

Category: Historical Fiction

Myths, legends and inspiration

In my novel Redbird, elements from Cherokee myths are woven into the love story, which is set during a historical event in the 1870s involving the Cherokee Nation and the Katy Railroad. Read on to find out more about these fascinating legends that inspired me.

Uk-ten-a

Jake crept next to the dark side of the locomotive. Tonight, Uk-te-na didn’t hiss or spew its dark breath. The smoking dragon crouched on metal rails with its nose pointed south, directly at the heart of the Tsa-la-gi nation, silent and still like a predator anticipating a kill.

Most cultures have legends about supernatural serpents. In Cherokee lore, they call this mythical creature Uk-te-na.  Described as a monstrous beast with horns, similar to a dragon, Uk-te-na is originally created at the behest of men to destroy their enemy. Instead, it wreaks havoc on the people of the earth. It makes sense, then, that Native Americans would liken locomotives to this fearsome beast.

This powerful imagery fit beautifully within the framework of my story about a Cherokee hero who sets out to stop a powerful railroad from devastating his homeland. His quest takes an unexpected turn when he abducts a railroad heiress who it seems might be the personification of a legendary goddess.

Wa-ya and the little bird

How did the cardinal get its beautiful coloring? In this Cherokee tale, Raccoon (gv-li) loves to tease Wolf (wa-ya). One day Wolf is chasing Raccoon so long he becomes exhausted. While he sleeps, Raccoon covers Wolf’s eyes with mud, which hardens. After Wolf awakens, he can’t get the mud off and he can’t see. He begs for help, but Raccoon just runs off.

At long last, a little bird hears Wolf and she flies over. “What’s the matter Brother Wolf? Can I help you?”

Wa-ya cries: “I can’t open my eyes, Please help me to see again!”

“I’m just a plain little brown bird. but I will help you if I can.”

“U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua (little brown bird), if you can help me to see again, I will take you to a magic rock that oozes red paint. We will paint your feathers red.”

The little bird pecks away the mud until Wolf can see. True to his word, Wa-ya takes U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua to the magic rock and uses a chewed stick as a paint brush to paint right red over the little bird’s plain, brown feathers. She becomes to-tsu-wa--the beautiful Red Bird.

Similarly, in the novel Redbird, the heroine Kate is instrumental in saving the hero, Jake (whose Cherokee name is Wa-ya). In turn, Jake’s gift to the woman he calls Redbird is a new awareness of her beauty and strength.

The Sun and her daughter

This traditional Cherokee legend contributes a core element in my love story and the hero’s journey. As a boy, Jake is enthralled by the story about the Sun’s daughter. He forms an image in his mind about what she might look like, and even sees her in a vision, which later directs his path in ways he could never have predicted. The original legend is rather long, so I’m going to paraphrase most of it.

The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west she stopped at her daughter’s house for dinner. Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. But the people of the earth smiled at her brother, the Moon. The Sun was jealous and decided to kill the people, so when she came to her daughter’s house, she sent rays down that created a great fever and many people died.

The people went for help to the Little Men (supernatural beings), who changed two people into snakes (Copperhead and Spreading-adder), but they were unsuccessful at killing the Sun. Then the Little Men created a monster, the great Uk-te-na and the Rattlesnake. They surprised the daughter of the Sun when she came outside, thinking it was her mother who was knocking.

After the Sun finds her daughter dead, she goes away and the world is plunged into darkness. Representatives of the people go to the land of the dead to retrieve the Sun’s daughter and bring her back alive, but along the way, they mistakenly let her out of a box she’s being kept in and she flies off,. A moment later, they hear the song of a red bird. The daughter of the Sun can’t return to her mother in her previous form, but she is brought back to life as the beautiful Redbird.

In my novel, Jake associates Kate with the Sun’s beautiful daughter and nicknames her Redbird. His fascination with her allows him to lower his defenses and open his mind and heart to new possibilities.

As far as Kate is concerned, Jake is the only man who accepts her on equal terms. With him, she feels beautiful and strong. She also comes to believe she is uniquely suited to help Wa-ya and his people. In the end, she is transformed, like her namesake.

Redbird, Book 2 in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails

A rich, white heiress. A Cherokee outlaw. They have nothing in common except a desire for peace…and each other.

Railroad heiress Kate Parsons has spent a lifetime trying to win her father’s respect. Her heart isn’t in the marriage he demands for her, but she is eager to help him peacefully resolve a land dispute between his railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Instead, her life–and her future–take a sharp turn when she is abducted by outlaws.

Jake Colston longs for peace, but not at the price the railroad wants his people to pay. Rather than fight a war against the smoking dragon, he devises a scheme to stop it. But a split-second decision to abduct Kate pitches his plans into chaos and creates havoc in his heart. Like the legendary goddess Redbird, his captive is brave and quick-witted, curious and compassionate. Is she the incarnation of a vision? Or does she portend the end of his dreams?

A captivating, cross-cultural love story, which unfolds during a fast-paced race through historic events. Redbird was originally released as a novella under the title Kate’s Outlaw. This new edition has been expanded into a novel with exciting new scenes and renamed after the Native American legend that inspired it. 

Read Redbird

Have you read the series yet? If not, get started on the first book, Her Bodyguard.  Right now, if you sign up as a new subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll receive a link to a free download. Sign up today!

Steam On!

E.E. Burke

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A new edition, a new book and a brand new look

My bestselling series is better than ever.

 

The Steam! Romance and Rails series was inspired by my love for Western movies and TV shows that deliver exceptional drama, passion and suspense in authentic historical settings. I’ll give a nod to Hell On Wheels as one of those inspirational shows. And you can really see the influence in these new covers for the latest edition of the series. I’ve tweaked and polished the stories, given them new covers that are closer to my original vision, and expanded the second book into a full-length novel.

The series begins with Her BodyguardAn 1870 railroad race plagued by crooked politics, angry mobs, liars, cheats and killers sets the stage for a story about betrayal, love and redemption.  A wanted man with dark secrets falls in love with the woman who hires him to protect her.  Packed with passion and suspense, it’s a thrilling ride with twists and turns right up to the end.  Buck O’Connor is one of my favorite heroes. I think this new cover fits the book and this character perfectly! Her Bodyguard is a BookBub Featured Deal on Aug. 19 and you can pick it up for 99 cents through Aug. 23. Buy it now!

Redbird was originally released as a short novella under the title, Kate’s Outlaw. I’ve expanded the storyline, added new scenes to extend it into a novel, and renamed it after the Cherokee legend that inspired it. This cross-cultural love story is set against the historical backdrop of a bitter battle between the Katy Railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Through this story, I strive to present a perspective that often gets lost in our glorification of Western expansion. Its central theme is hope–for peace, understanding, respect, and, ultimately, a sense of unity despite our differences.

At the end of Redbird, we leave Indian Territory and return to Kansas, where the Katy Railroad has a new headquarters in Parsons, and a new general manager. Henry Stevens is charismatic, courageous and ambitious. Could he also be a murderer? A clever young woman, who has more to lose than her heart, sets out to discover the truth about the fascinating man the loyal railroaders call Chief.

In A Dangerous Passion, the character of Henry Stevens was inspired by bigger-than-life stories about the real “Colonel Stevens,” the man who led the Katy Railroad to victory. I do a lot of research when planning a series. This one, in particular, follows the historical journey of the Katy Railroad as the underpinning for both settings and plot lines.

Oh, and this cover! When I first starting working on A Dangerous Passion, I pinned some “inspirational” images to my Pinterest board.

To the left is how I envisioned Henry Stevens might look. The cover model is a dead ringer, right?

No, I didn’t pay Richard Armitage to pose for the cover, but if this book ever gets made into a movie, I know who I want to play the lead role!

In Fugitive Hearts, two runaways take a wild ride through Indian Territory where outlaws and train robbers plague the new Katy Railway line.

A hotel owner confesses to accidentally killing her husband, which sets off a scandal and an investigation. When the widow sets out to find her missing foster child, what follows is a passionate, suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse between Claire and the sheriff, who is determined to uncover the truth. When he does, it will challenge his preconceived notions about justice—and love.

I’m currently writing Book Five in the series, Lawless Hearts, which will be released in early 2022. Get a sneak peek at the cover and read the blurb here.

Another word about the covers. I owe a special thanks to photographer Matthew Malkiewicz for his inspiring images of the old steam locomotives that grace my book covers. His photography really captures the mood and drama of this series. (You can see more of his amazing work at www.losttracksoftime.com.)

What other authors say about Steam! Romance and Rails

“Gripping, realistic western writing at its best! E.E. Burke is an exceptional storyteller!” ~ Rosanne Bittner, USA Today bestselling author

“I thoroughly enjoy E.E. Burke’s historical romances. Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West of old.”  ~ Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“Pure passion and romance that will steal your breath.” ~ Linda Broday, New York Times bestselling author

“E.E. Burke understands the heart of romance…and delivers it!” ~ Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author

Give me your take on this series if you’ve read it. I’d love to know which hero was your favorite.

Steam On!

E.E. Burke

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E.E. Burke: On The Journey

The New Adventures novels feature original paintings by Missouri artist Gary R. Lucy (you can find his work at https://garylucy.com)

From an early age, I’ve been afflicted with a fondness for two precocious Missouri-bred boys introduced to me by Mark Twain. As I read (and reread) Tom and Huck’s adventures, I hated to bid them farewell at a point where their stories were just taking off. I wanted to know what happened to them when they grew up. Did they find new adventures? Did they embark on the greatest adventure of all—falling in love? No one (not even the author of their stories) provided sufficient answers to my questions.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote at the end of Tom Sawyer:  Some day it may seem worthwhile to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be… The great author never did revisit his characters as adults. But I could not be satisfied until I had explored what might have been.

Mark Twain in front of the house where he grew up in Hannibal, MO

Tom Sawyer Returns picks up more than a decade after we left him as a carefree lad in a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. It made sense that Tom would eventually leave to seek adventures. History provided a desperate event that would bring him home, determined to be a hero.

This story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was the setting in Twain’s original story (a thinly veiled fictional rendering of Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent much of his boyhood).

Numerous incidents in this book are based on historic reports, one of which alludes to a shadowy conspiracy by Confederate sympathizers to seize control of Mississippi River. Put Tom in the middle of a deadly scheme, having to solve a mystery without crucial memories, and you have an exciting plot. But a love story requires more.

Becky ignites Tom’s jealousy with Alfred Temple

In Twain’s book, the character of Becky Thatcher fits the traditional stereotype of the Victorian female: beautiful, helpless,  idealized–quite frankly, boring. I wondered what a girl like that might do when faced with adversity if she were made of more than fluff? The Becky Thatcher who sprang to life on these pages surprised me with her cleverness, compassion, courage and sense of adventure. She’d shown something of her spunk in choosing Tom in the first place. Seeing her develop into a multi-faceted, independent woman, was pure delight.

You’ll meet other characters featured in Twain’s original story, such as Tom’s obsessively rule-bound half-brother Sid, Becky’s elusive cousin Jeff, a beleaguered Judge Thatcher, Tom’s secretive former girlfriend Amy Lawrence, and Alfred Temple, who has risen to great heights and is still competing with Tom for Becky’s affections. They all had bit parts in Twain’s original tale. I thoroughly enjoyed expanding on these secondary characters, delving into backstories, and exploring their relationships with Tom and Becky.

Here is a book trailer I put together as a teaser. I wonder if you can guess who the shadowy character at the end represents?

After you finish Tom Sawyer Returns, be sure to pick up Taming Huck Finn.

Where Tom’s story is an action-adventure, Huck’s story is a journey. Throw in one young orphan who idolizes his famous uncle and a spinster who is determined to civilize them, and you have a recipe for Huck’s greatest challenge.

I humbly offer these historical tales with profound gratitude to the man who inspired it. Perhaps more than any other author, Mark Twain influenced my love of the written word and my belief in the power of a well-told story.

Enjoy my New Adventures!
E.E. Burke

Of the two–Tom and Huck–do you have a favorite? Which one and why? Leave a comment and enter my raffle for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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10th Anniversary Celebration: Passion and Photography

Steam train image by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

One of the greatest challenges and pleasures in self-publishing is partnering with other artists to conceive the book cover. It’s the physical representation of your story, and so it has to be right. For the Steam! Romance and Rails series, I didn’t just want pictures of trains, I wanted images that would capture the passion and drama of a long-ago time and bring it alive.

When I came across a website featuring the photographic art of Matthew Malkiewicz, I knew I’d found perfect fit. His photography visibly defines the era and captures the mood I want to evoke. His trains are featured on eight of my books, and his iconic images are also featured in the banner of my website and on my newsletter.

Contrary to what some might say, authors can’t launch and sustain careers without great partners, such as critique buddies, editors, illustrators, and designers, photographers, to name a few.  In this post, I wanted to extend a special thanks to someone who has been a valued partner and friend on the journey, Matthew Malkiewicz.

I’ll let him tell his story in his own words:

How did you get started “shooting” trains?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

It was more an awakening than an idea, it all started at the age of 4 months. I have a photo of myself watching a toy train run around the Christmas tree as a baby, it must have hooked me well. As a kid I had a model train layout on a piece of plywood in the basement, and in my teens I received my first camera, which I aimed at every train I saw. After a long period in my life without cameras or trains a job assignment in Colorado (a train mecca) during 2005 rekindled both hobbies, driving me to buy my first digital camera. At the same time I discovered the power of Photoshop, soon after I created my website to showcase my rapidly growing collection of photographs. It’s been a snowball effect ever since.

What are some of your favorite locations or settings?

I concentrate on vintage steam locomotives from all across the United States. Now they have second lives as tourist operations, the fortunate trains that survived the scrapping after the fleet was retired in the middle of the last century. Modern day railroading, both passenger and freight revenue, are pulled by either diesel or electric engines. My passion gravitates to the machines of yesteryear, fire-breathing monsters that seem to be alive whether you have your hand against the polished steel or you are two bluffs away looking across acres of prairie grass. I envision how it must have been back in the day and try to create photographs as timeless as possible to depict what I consider a vibrantly better and sadly vanished time.

What drew you to photographing old steam engines?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

The allure of capturing images that stimulate one’s senses is what drew me to photograph steam-powered locomotives. I wanted to bring to life the smells of the coal fueling the engine, the sound of the steam hissing, and the earth rattling as these magnificent machines sit idling or are in motion. These machines of steam are alive. Each is unique, its own personality, which changes from day to day. At a state of rest the locomotive is groaning, sweating, simmering, creaking, spitting. At speed it’s controlled madness – the ground shakes, sound deafening.

What’s the coolest train you’ve ever photographed and why?

Halloween weekend 2011 at the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. Nothing, and I mean nothing; can keep me away from capturing that awe-inspiring shot of a majestic steam locomotive.  However, the Halloween nor’easter would certainly test my fortitude. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. As the morning passed on, the snow intensified. By the time the train made its way out of town for its first run of the day, we had experienced near whiteout conditions and things got real quiet. With a typical steam train, you would expect to hear wheels clacking against the rails and steam puffing from the stack. But to my surprise, the snow seemed to envelop and muffle the familiar sound of the locomotive. As the train bellowed down the snowy rails, it was visible that the pine trees struggled to support the weight of the fresh snow, and the cornfields became covered in a white blanket. The autumn-colored leaves indicated that perhaps the trees were also caught off-guard by the storm. An image from the day, aptly named “Train on a Snow Day”, placed second in the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s 2014 Awards Program.

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

Do you enjoy seeing your work interpreted on book covers? Is it how you might have imagined, or completely different?

Yes I do. We all interpret a scene differently, it’s what makes us individuals. I enjoy seeing how others, such as the graphic artist of a book cover, takes my photograph and add their own style, flair, and techniques to enhance. The final results have been beyond my expectations; very pleasantly surprised every time.

Here are some of Matthew’s images on book covers designed by the very talented Erin Dameron-Hill.

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

What dreams have been realized as a result of your photography?

Throughout life, we all seek our own way in the pursuit of happiness, to find something that’s going to set us apart from the pack, mold our life into something special, and discover the sense in it all.  We test different things to determine what will help us in our quest, push us beyond our own limits, and achieve our dreams. My galleries capture my travels and experiences across our countryside.  Some near home, others far away and remote, all uniquely memorable.  It’s a passion that has taken me to where I am in life today.  My hope is that someday my portfolio will be an inspiration to others interested in this hobby I truly love.  I’m confident that one day I will capture my most spectacular image.  Until then, each photo tells the story of lost time, remembered.

While Matthew continues to pursue his dream of capturing soul-stirring images of an era long past, I continue to pursue my dream to write stories that will transport readers to the past and connect them to the hopes and dreams of others and themselves.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share them with you, dear reader.

Enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

With fondness and gratitude,

E.E. Burke

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Take a journey with Huck Finn

“When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.” ~ Mark Twain

Embark on a new adventure with an old friend

TAMING HUCK FINN, inspired by Mark Twain’s iconic adventurer, begins in the summer of 1870 in Atchison, Kansas, which served as a bustling port along the Missouri River.

In those days, steamboats transported goods to settlements and army forts up and down the river, as well as hauling miners traveling to and from the Montana gold fields. Freedom-loving Huck Finn works as a part-time steamboat pilot when he’s not off searching for gold.

The sprawling, unpredictable Missouri River provides the perfect landscape for my story about a restless man whose goal is to stay one step ahead of civilization.

In those days, it took nerves of steel to pilot a steamboat on the wild, untamed Missouri River. A few of the things steamboat pilots encountered: elusive, ill-defined and ever-changing channels, getting stranded in low water, innumerable and often invisible snags, whirlpools, Indian attacks–to name but a few.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, close to 300 steamboats went down in the river between 1830 and 1902.  Historians estimate almost half of all the boats that plied the Missouri were lost to various accidents, with snags taking most of them to their watery grave. The “Muddy Mo” had a voracious appetite for steamboats!

Near Kansas City, a construction company dug up a steamboat from the 1850s out of a farm field (the river had long since changed course). While there were no human casualties, the boat went down with its entire load of supplies. The Steamboat Arabia exhibit at the Kansas City riverfront is filled with some of the most well preserved displays of 19th century goods you’ll find anywhere.

Far West pilothouse replica
 courtesy Dave Thomson Gallery

The type of boat Huck pilots is a “mountain boat.” These sternwheelers were smaller and lighter, equipped with spars, which were a bit like stilts to help the boat “walk” over obstacles. One of the best-known mountain boats was the Far West, piloted by Captain Grant Marsh.

A replica of the Far West pilothouse shows a pair of antelope antlers mounted in front to indicate it was a “fast boat” — Grant made a record-breaking run down the Missouri River in 1876 after he picked up the wounded from the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Packet steamboating on the Missouri River lasted from the 1820s to the 1880s, with the greatest period of activity between 1840 and 1860. The railroads contributed primarily to the demise of steamboat business by siphoning off long-haul passenger and freight business. In 1867, there were 71 steamers regularly plying the Missouri River. Three years later there were only 9. (Wild River, Wooden Boats, Michael Gillespie, Heritage Press).

Some of the landing points mentioned in Taming Huck Finn were busy ports in the 1870s: Weston, Missouri, Sioux City, Iowa, Fort Sully in the Dakota Territory, Kansas City, and eventually St. Louis, where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers converge.

His greatest adventure is about to catch up with him.

Steamboat pilot Huck Finn lives life on his own terms and steers clear of messy entanglements that might tie him down—until he takes charge of an orphaned boy that needs rescuing.

Starched and proper, Miss Hallie MacBride is determined to atone for past sins by raising her estranged sister’s son. She doesn’t expect footloose Mr. Finn to challenge her, much less up and run off with her nephew.

On a wild journey fraught with danger, a freedom-loving adventurer and an avowed spinster battle over the destiny of a young boy, who is doing his level best to convince them they belong together.

Excerpt:

June 2, 1870, Atchison, Kansas

“What you layin’ in there for, mister?”

A childish voice disturbed Huck’s sleep. He screwed his eyes tightly shut, willing his mind to return to dreams of pleasanter things than inquisitive children.

Something struck the bottom of his boot. He jerked awake, his head connecting with a crack against the inside of the hogshead barrel. “Ow! Blame it.”

Gingerly, he touched a rising lump and grimaced at the painful reminder of where he’d ended up. After celebrating into the wee hours, it appeared a convenient place to await the next packet chugging up the Missouri River. Sobriety declared it a bad idea. Only halfwits and drunks slept in discarded barrels. Not men who commanded steamboats.

Curling around, he squinted at the opening where his legs were exposed. Daylight outlined the figure of a child. Hopeful it was just a dream Huck shut his eyes. When he opened them again, the boy had bent to peer inside the barrel.

Gap-toothed smile, snub nose, merry eyes that held the promise of mischief… “Tom?” Huck rasped.

The boy giggled.

No, he couldn’t possibly be. Tom had been nearly full-grown fifteen years ago.

Huck rubbed his stinging eyes. He must’ve gotten ahold of some bad brew like the Fire Rod his old man used to swig by the jug full; that stuff made Pap see crazier things than a boy that wasn’t there.

The spitting image of Tom laughed again. “Uncle Huck?”

Uncle? Huck shook his head to clear it. By God, he’d swear off whiskey forever if it brought on these strange imaginings, and it had to be his imagination. Huck Finn weren’t nobody’s uncle.

Pick up your copy of Taming Huck Finn at the following retailers:

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His greatest adventure is about to catch up with him

TAMING HUCK FINN by E.E. Burke

Steamboat pilot Huck Finn lives life on his own terms, steering clear of the kind of messy entanglements that would tie a man down–until he takes charge of an orphan and defies the “old maid” determined to raise him.

What follows is a wild journey filled with humor, high jinx and heart-pounding danger, as a freedom-loving adventurer and an avowed spinster battle over the destiny of a young boy who is doing his level best to convince them they belong together.

Embark on an unforgettable adventure from award-winning author E.E. Burke in a novel inspired by one of America’s most beloved characters.

Read an excerpt

Order your copy today:

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E.E. answers your questions:

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s original story and always had a soft spot for Huck. I wondered what kind of man he would grow up to be. This is the story Huck gave me when I asked him what happened to him after he “set out for the Territory.”

How did you decide what occupation Huck would have as an adult?

It didn’t seem a far stretch to imagine Huck growing up to be a steamboat pilot. He was a child of the river, and I couldn’t see him straying far. Plus, he had the intelligence and temperament to pilot steamboats, which requires a unique combination of skills, instinct, excellent reflexes, and steely nerve.

Of course, I couldn’t write a book about Huck being a steamboat pilot without referring to Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi, which is largely based on Samuel Clemens own apprenticeship as a riverboat pilot. Reading the diaries of Missouri River pilots helped me place Huck on a different river, one that I think it fits his personality.

Why put the story on the Missouri River rather than the Mississippi – the original setting?

In Taming Huck Finn, as in Twain’s original book, the river itself is a character.
The Missouri River of today is nothing like what it was at the time of Huck’s story (1870). Before being dredged and tamed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 20th century, the “Big Muddy” was sprawling and unpredictable. I have a map that shows where steamboats sank along the old path of the river, and it is littered with wrecks. Taking a steamboat on the Missouri River was a dangerous undertaking, especially into the north part of the river where it was shallower and rocky and prone to flooding. Just the kind of challenge Huck Finn would relish.

During this same time, the era of the steamboat was giving way to the steady advancement of the railroads. Huck sees himself, the old boats and even the river, as relics of a past that is quickly fading. He’s struggling to figure out how he fits into a new world rapidly catching up with him. Does he keep running? Or does he risk his freedom for the one thing that’s eluded him all these years?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

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