The novel takes readers on a literary ride down the rails – Times-Standard

Northern California author Ed Davis says the idea for his latest novel was born 40 years ago while riding in a boxcar just outside Watsonville, California.

Although Davis began writing the book in the 1970s, it took him about four decades to complete “The Last Professional,” which was released last week by Artemesia Publishing.

“The Last Professional” – a 278-page paperback – is the story of two men on the move: young Lynden Hoover and an older man known as The Duke, who is on the run from a dangerous enemy named Short Arm. Hoover is “a young man confronting his past” and The Duke “an old man clinging to his vanishing way of life,” Davis said, noting that the novel “is set against the backdrop of thundering freight trains and pariahs who ride them”.

Many years ago – long before today’s shift towards nomadic living – Davis was already enjoying the open road, hitchhiking with friends, exploring the country in his van, and hopping in covered wagons and freight trains across North America and Canada.

Davis says his many years of railway adventures began “as a necessity and a happy coincidence.”

“A friend and I were hitchhiking from California to New York,” Davis, now 69, said in an email interview with The Times-Standard. “We were both big guys with big backpacks, and hardly anyone was stopping. A guy in a van picked us up in Crescent City and said, “You should do freight. You and your gear are way too big to hitchhike. He gave us some tips – he had ridden a bit himself – (then) dropped us off in Eugene’s yard, and straight away we took a ride on a flatcar towards Portland. It was a nice hot day. We could see everything and we were moving forward. I was hooked.

Author Ed Davis prepares to board a train. He holds his latest book, ‘The Last Professional’, which is based on his many years of rail travel experiences in the 1970s and 1980s. (Courtesy of Ed Davis)

From the early 1970s to the early 1980s, Davis says he traveled tens of thousands of miles across the United States and Canada via rail.

“I was 20 in 1972 when I popped my first freight. I had just finished working for two years as a psychiatric technician at Sonoma State Hospital, and I needed to clear my head” , did he declare.

Some of those early excursions took him through Humboldt County, he noted.

“Before the Island Mountain tunnel burned down in 1978 — and before Southern Pacific abandoned the line in 1984 — one of my favorite routes in the whole world was from Sonoma County to Eureka,” Davis said. . “You could catch a slow freight out of Petaluma in the afternoon, cross the Russian River Valley as the evening settled around you, grab something to eat when the crew changed at Willits, and then you sleep in a covered wagon and wake up in Humboldt Bay for breakfast the next morning. Freights usually traveled through the Eel River Canyon at night, but sometimes you were lucky and snagged one during the day. There was no more beautiful walk to do anywhere.

Davis says he started writing about when he started riding the rails, first writing letters to his now wife, Jan.

“The letters I wrote to Jan when I first caught freights across the country as a young man did that,” he said. “I was aware that a kind of alchemy was taking place, a mixture of loneliness, adventure and love. My writing seemed to tie them together into something entirely new and valuable. Since then, I have been hungry for more of this element.

Over the years, Davis has written several other books, including the death row thriller “A Matter of Time,” the short story “In All Things” (based on his early work as a psychiatric tech), and the tale of “Road Stories” trip. His short stories have appeared in a myriad of literary journals.

Davis – who continues to write every day, whether on his travels or from the Glen Ellen home he shares with Jan – has finally returned to “The Last Professional” story, which he started there. so many years ago.

“There’s no better way to experience this incredible country of ours than from a slow train,” Davis said. “You see America’s backyard and wilderness where cars can’t go.”

And he says that while “The Last Professional” is fiction, it’s “informed throughout of my personal adventures on the rails and my life experience.”

“As writers,” he said, “I think we invest our work with ourselves for a number of reasons. We strive to engage readers by creating stories that resonate with their own lives and to forge human connections that are rewarding – and if we’re very lucky, enlightening.

Davis says he hopes at some point to return to Eureka for a book signing for his new book, “The Last Professional.”

“I would love to,” he said. “Many years ago Jan and I swapped our steel wheels for rubber tires (we have a motorhome) and we are still looking for a reason to visit the North Coast. And for those who can’t get to a bookstore because of COVID, I’ve created a ‘Bookstore Friendly Order Page’ (https://www.eddavisbooks.com/order-the-last-professional/) for “The Last Professional”, so people can always support their favorite store with their purchase. »

For more information about the author and his work, go to www.eddavisbooks.com.

Irene B. Bowles