(2007) Chasing Fireflies - A Novel of Discovery

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Charles Martin

Acclaim for the past works of
Charles Martin

"Beautiful writing ... offers hope and redemption without too-neat resolution."

-Publishers Weekly regarding Maggie

" . . charming characters and twists that keep the pages turning."

-Southern Living, regarding When Crickets Cry

Southern Living Book-of-the-Month selection, April 2006

"How is Charles Martin able to take mere words and breathe such vibrant life into them? Each character is drawn with an artist's attention to detail, beauty and purpose. Readers won't want the story to end because that means leaving these lovable people who have become so much more than just a name in a book."

-inthelibraryreviews.net regarding When Crickets Cry

"[ The Dead Don't Dance is] an absorbing read for fans of faith-based fiction ... [with] delightfully quirky characters ... [who] are ingeniously imaginative creations."

-Publishers Weekly

"[In When Crickets Cry,] Martin has created highly developed characters, lifelike dialogue, and a well-crafted story."

-Christian Book Previews.com

"Martin spins an engaging story about healing and the triumph of love ... Filled with delightful local color."

-Publishers Weekly regarding Wrapped in Rain

"[O]ne of the best books I've been asked to review, and certainly the best one this year!"

-bestfiction.tripod.com regarding When Crickets Cry

"Charles Martin has proven himself a master craftsman. Double the story-telling ability of Nicholas Sparks, throw in hints of Michael Crichton and Don J. Snyder, and you have Charles Martin."

-Paula Parker, www.lifeway.coxn

"If you read any book this year, this is the one."

-Coffee Time Romance regarding When Crickets Cry

"Mr. Martin's writing is gifted and blessed and insightful. His prose captures the essence of the story [When Crickets Cry] with beauty and sensitivity. I look forward to reading more of his work, past and future."

-onceuponaromance.net

"Charles Martin is changing the face of inspirational fiction one book at a time. Wrapped in Rain is a sentimental tale that is not to be missed."

-Michael Morris, author of Slow Way Home and A Place Called Wiregrass

"[When Crickets Cry] will be a classic and this gifted author will be listed among the literary greats of our time."

-novelreviews.blogspot.com

"The American South has produced many of our finest novelists and this is the case of Charles Martin and his novel, When Crickets Cry."

-bookviews.com

"When Crickets Cry is one of the very best books I have ever read, and I am still reeling from this knock-your-socks-off story several days after finishing it."

-romancejunkies.com

 
Other novels by Charles Martin

The Dead Don't Dance

Wrapped in Rain

When Crickets Cry

Maggie

For my Dad nothing compares

 
Prologue

ocketing through the hazy orange glow of dawn, the green 11972 four-door Chevrolet Impala fishtailed sideways off the dirt road onto Highway 99, squealing both rear tires and billowing white smoke from bald retreads. The exhaust pipe spewed sparks some six feet beyond the bumper, and the tip of the pipe glowed cigarettered. The engine whined, backfiring out the hole in the muffler, and then the car straightened and sped down the mile-long straightaway that paralleled the tracks. The left rear brake light was busted, and the front windshield was an indiscriminate spiderweb of cracks stretching from hood to rooftop.

A mile down the road, the speedometer bounced above ninety miles an hour, but it was a good thirty or forty off. Another quarter mile and the driver hit the brakes with both feet pressing the pedal to the carpet. Swerving from median to pavement to emergency lane and back again, the car moved like an untied balloon that had slipped from a clown's fingers. At the end of two long black lines, the driver threw the stick into reverse and gunned the small-block 400, producing more white smoke from both the rear wheel wells and the right exhaust pipe. Without signaling, the car U-turned, swung wide, and the driver pegged the accelerator.

The kid in the passenger seat stared into the side mirror, squinting so that his eyelashes touched, and studied the spray of sparks. If he closed them just right, the exhaust pipe comet transformed into a fanciful fountain of fireflies dancing along the South Georgia asphalt.

The car reached the railroad crossing in the wrong lane, finally swerving into the turn lane only to power-slide into the wrong lane again. The fountain disappeared. Steam rose from underneath the hood, swirling up and around the bulldog hood ornament. The cloth headliner had partially fallen from the ceiling and now flapped in the crosswind like a tent. All four windows were down, and only jagged corners remained of the back glass. The car sat smoking, just inches from the tracks.

These historic tracks.

The Silver Meteor was a speeding silver bullet placed into service in February 1932. Before the Second World War, boys would appear out of the woods, flag her down, and ride north to New York, where they'd hop on a steamer, float the ocean, and shoot at Germans. Her Mars lamp created a figure eight, sweeping the tracks ahead and keeping rhythm with the chatter of the telegraph at every stop. Airconditioned in 1936, diesel powered, with reclining seats, a diner, tavern-coach, and coach-observation car, she was a modern marvel. With her all-stainless steel streamlined luxury coaches, Pullman sleepers, and white-coated porters opening doors and placing step-boxes on the platform, she was also a gateway to the world.

In her heyday from 1956 onward, she departed New York at 2:50 PM, arriving in D.C. some three and a half hours later, then promptly departed again at 7:05 en route to a 4:00 PM arrival in Miami the following day. That put her through Thalmann, a few miles west of the green Impala, sometime in the early morning.

Prior to every crossing, the conductor would check his Hamilton, gauge the time, and hang on the horn. But it wasn't always necessary. Sometimes it was just bragging. Then again, not many people had his job.

Normally, the Silver Meteor carried twenty cars and traveled between seventy-four and ninety miles per hour, meaning she would need all of five miles to stop. After she left Thalmann, she'd turn south, hug the Georgia coastline, streak into Florida, and top a hundred miles per hour on the straights between Sebring and West Palm Beach. She was a symphony of sound and a king's banquet of smell, feel, and otherworldly power. Her domed observation car would round the corner and sparkle in the distance like the Northern Star. A minute later, the caboose would reach and clear the corner, only to disappear once again behind her nose.

Barreling down the straight, the bone jarring horn would sound every quarter mile and then constantly in the last quarter. As she neared the crossing, she sent an odd combination of sonar pingsthe banging of the draft gear between the cars, the thundering engines, bells ringing, horn blowing, sparks flying in her wake. She was a panoramic display of clickety-clack glory, the sum of which reached out ahead of the train only to sneak around and rise up through your spine like a jackhammer exiting the earth. And when she had disappeared, her single red light tailing off into the distance, she left you with that same lover's touch, the lingering remnant and sweet aroma of spent diesel, hot oil, and creosote.

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