‘The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set’ by James McBride

The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set by James McBride, 2017

The magic trick:

Inventive premise that plays fast and loose with history’s facts

It’s all there in the title. Funny, clever, intriguing, and ultimately a feeling of “Wait, what does that even mean?”

This is far from a perfect story – it’s loose and slightly meandering. But damn if it isn’t incredibly enjoyable.

I think it’s just the inventiveness of everything here. The characters are big and vivid. The plot keeps you turning the pages. And the entire premise is incredibly creative and intriguing, especially with the way it plays with history that is both accurate and completely made up.

And that’s quite a trick on McBride’s part.

The selection:

The train then vanished from history, never to be seen again. Stories of its existence popped up from time to time. A French toymaker in 1923 claimed he’d procured it, but it turned out to be a fraud. In 1945, a Negro seamstress from Baltimore swore her grandmother had it and produced a picture, but that, too, turned out to be a fake. There had not been one credible sighting of the Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set in over 130 years.

That is, until that balmy afternoon in 1992 when I sat in my office and found myself starting at an old photograph in the weather-beaten portfolio of the Reverend Spurgeon T. Hart.

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