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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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On The Journey First Edition

 

Here’s an archive copy of the first edition of my new On the Journey newsletter. Each month, I send my subscribers a collection of exclusive articles pertaining to books I’ve written or projects I’m working on, places I travel, people I meet, quotes, short stories, and the occasional special offer. My intent is to make this email newsletter something readers look forward to receiving. If it sounds interesting to you, I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

Steam On!

E.E. Burke

~~~

Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century. ~ Mark Twain, Notebook, 1894

Sam and Livy: A Love Story

By E.E. Burke

(Pictured above: Sam and his Livy.)

As a romance writer, I’m always on the look-out for great love stories. One of the most poignant is the romance between Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) and Olivia Langdon. What an unlikely pair they were. Olivia, known as Livy, had a proper Eastern upbringing in a family of high social standing. Sam was a westerner with many rough edges. He grew up poor and left school at age 12. In contrast to Livy’s even temperament and piety, Sam had explosive bouts of anger; he smoked, drank and could out-swear a sailor. Nevertheless, these two found in each other a love that only deepened over the years.

Clemens reported that he fell in love with Olivia when he first saw her in an ivory miniature on board a ship with her brother in 1867. He met her the following December, 1868.

He later wrote in The Autobiography of Mark Twain: “She was slender and beautiful and girlish–she was both girl and woman. She remained both girl and woman to the last day of her life.”

Within days of meeting Livy. he proposed marriage. She refused. It took real determination to convince her to marry him–more than 180 letters over 17 months.

He later wrote: “She said she never could or would love me – but she set herself the task of making a Christian of me. I said she would succeed, but that in the meantime, she would unwittingly dig a matrimonial pit and end by tumbling into it.”

She did indeed take the tumble and loved Sam for 34 years until the day of her death in 1904.

This poignant recollection from Twain’s autobiography gives some insight into one of the reasons he loved his Livy so faithfully and passionately. “She poured out her prodigal affection in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me.”

Sadly, the devoted couple experienced heartbreaking loss. Their first child, Langdon, died of diphtheria before he reached his second year. They lost daughter Susy, 24, to meningitis, and Jean died from epilepsy at 29. Clara was estranged from her father for many years although they reconciled before his death. Clara lived to age 88, but left no children.

Sam and Livy’s love story is, in part, what inspired me to write love stories for the beloved characters Mark Twain created. I like to think Sam would appreciate the difficulties both Tom and Huck face when they fall in love.

~~~

I noticed some pieces of limbs and such things floating down, and a sprinkling of bark; so I knowed the river had begun to rise. ~ Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Life On The Big Muddy

This year, those of us in the Midwest have been reminded of the Missouri River’s power and unpredictability. But the Big Muddy has always been a dangerous river.

Ever Changing Channels: The Missouri River has never liked to stay in predictable channels. According the Mark Twain’s writings, 19th century pilots on the Mississippi River could memorize that river enough to run at night. But steamboats on the Missouri River would only travel during the day when the pilots could actually observe the river because it changed so often. The course they took on the trip upriver could be entirely different from the one they encountered coming back downriver.

Spilling over its banks: This aerial photo from KMBC-News in Kansas City shows historic flooding in Platte County, MO (about a half hour north of where I live). While doing research for Taming Huck Finn, I read about a famed Mississippi River steamboat pilot who made one journey up the Missouri River in the early 1870s, and declared he would never do it again. He said only a madman would attempt to pilot such a wild, unpredictable river. It sounded to me like the kind the river that would appeal to Huck Finn.

If you’d like to check out my novel Taming Huck Finndownload a free first chapter. Or use this universal link to purchase: books2read.com/huckfinn

Would you like to receive On The Journey? This brief informational e-newsletter is sent out only once a month. Here’s where to sign up: www.eeburke.com/newsletter.

*Train photography in newsletter banner by Matthew Malkiewicz. See more of his lovely photography at www.losttracksoftime.com.

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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

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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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