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Posted February 25, 2015
This 1901 novel Held for Orders: Tales of Railroad Life by Frank H. Spearman is one of the great forgotten-then-rescued classics of American literature. The book’s stories are told through eyes and words of gritty, down-to-earth western American railroaders apparently sitting around a pot-bellied stove during working men’s slow nights somewhere west of Omaha. Each chapter is a story of a different man in interesting times: the striker, the dispatcher, the conductor, the wiper and others. The stories are inter-connected as the majorsubject of each story is casual to others. Mr. Spearman, the author, was a banker in Nebraska who obviously spent a lot of time with railroaders (perhaps around late-night stoves) and he had an ear for the language of his time. He reproduced that language very well -- American speech as it was before homogenization by broadcast media and mass entertainment. There is poetry - not of verse - but of speech in it. I found this book in the attic when I was 12, well more than half a century ago. In the way one returns to see a loved, classic movie, I reread it every few years for enjoyment of the qualities of it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.