Author Ed Davis

Whether it is racing to catch a speeding freight train, trekking the remotest reaches of the Andes, reporting on a presidential inauguration, or working the back wards of the country’s largest State Hospital, Davis’s writing always puts you right in the thick of it.

With a unique style, often compared to John Steinbeck and Jack London, that Kirkus Review calls “. . . powerful; beautifully written, well-observed and effective.” Davis invites you on adventures, real and fictional, that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Q: Tell us about your latest book?
ED: My latest novel, The Last Professional, is a road story in the purest sense—two characters on a hobo’s journey across America; a young man confronting the traumas of his past, and an old one clinging to the code he has lived by and his vanishing way of life. The structure—the journey—drives the action, but it is the evolving relationship that the characters have with one another, and with themselves, that gives the structure meaning, and hopefully resonates with readers.

Q: What author would you say inspires you the most?
ED: My strongest influences are the classic American writers of the last century. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe. And the generation that immediately followed them, Harper Lee, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey — and a little later, Stephen King. But if I had to pick one it would be Steinbeck. His descriptive powers are, for me, unmatched.


Q: What was the most interesting thing in your career that has happened to you?
ED: When I wrote the first draft of The Last Professional, forty years ago, I clearly identified with Lynden Hoover, the young man who realizes that he can’t get on with his life unless he comes to grips with being abducted and abused as a boy by a passing railroad tramp. Like Lynden,

I did not know my father, and I was also subjected to sexual abuse, though by a family friend, not by a tramp. When I came back to rewrite the novel a few years ago I was in my sixties, and I found myself identifying with The Duke, the last professional hobo still riding the rails—Profesh, they called themselves. He is a man confronting a rapidly changing world where everything he has lived for is called into question, and his very life is at risk. Yet interestingly, through the process of bringing this book to completion and publication, I’ve come to understand that, like Lynden, those early traumas that I thought I’d left behind hadn’t gone anywhere. They wait for all of us, biding their time until we are ready to face them, so that we can begin to heal.

Q: How have you gotten over all the isolation of COVID?
ED: Getting through it was one thing — lots of time outdoors hiking with friends — lots of social-distance socializing. As to getting over it, right now I’m in the midst of what we are calling The Great American Whistle Stop Book Tour. I’m traveling via rail (Amtrak, not freights) for thirty days, through fifteen cities, and covering about 6,500 miles.  It is a way to support local bookstores all along the route, and for me to get out and experience this country from the rails once again.


Q: What’s your favorite Jack London work?
ED: Martin Eden, for sure. Every aspiring writer should give it a look. Martin’s discovery of the power of words, and their transformative nature, strikes a chord, and provides a great insight into what drove Jack to write so much, and so well.

Q: What are you working on now?
ED: I’m finishing work on a collection of short stories set in the fictional northern California of O’Farrell — a town based on Sebastopol, where I was raised.

Ed Davis Author

Q: How often do you write and do you outline?

ED: Though I don’t have any fixed routine, I manage to write almost daily. Sometimes, when I’m in the thick of it, the challenge is to keep from writing too much. Stephen King talks about the notion of “falling through a whole in the page” when it’s really working. Man . . . when that happens you can get lost in there . . . in a good way! As to outlining, almost never. The one exception was when I wrote A Matter of Time. It is a death row thriller that transpires over the last twenty-four hours of the protagonist’s life. I wrote it in real time, one chapter per hour over a twenty-four-hour period. Without a detailed outline, I never could have pulled that off.

Q: Are you a train person? I was but we have Amtrak!
ED: I love trains, which is one reason I’m doing this current book tour via rail. But just as there were all sorts of different people riding the rails back in the day—for all sorts of reasons—there are all sorts of different train enthusiasts. I am in awe of the folks who can tell you every detail about a given railroad, or locomotive, or station. Their breadth of knowledge is incredible. I tend to be more experiential. Having ridden freight trains for so many thousands of miles in my youth, while I may not know the horsepower of the lead power unit on a mile long freight, when I hear its horn, I’m ready to run and catch it—mentally at least!


Q: What are you reading now?
ED: I just finished The Lincoln Highway. There is a whole lot there to like.

Q:  What do you think the future is for the printed word?
ED: Though I’m an optimist by nature, when it comes to the printed word — words on paper — I’m concerned. Technology has changed everything, in good ways, and bad. On the good side of the equation, people who might never have seen their work in print before can do so now and do it easily. For the writer, there is nothing more satisfying than holding your own book in your own hands. Yet, because it has become so easy to self-publish, there are now an avalanche of books coming out; the last figure I saw was more than five thousand new titles per day. From that perspective, you could say that the printed word is thriving. But writers aren’t thriving. While it has never been easy to make a living in this trade, it is now nearly impossible. The economic model doesn’t work for writers anymore. For folks on the business side of the equation — agents, publicists, ad agencies, distributors, the large publishing houses — the math has never changed. They have to make payroll and keep the lights on, so they need to involve themselves in projects that will sell. That dictates an inevitable narrowing of what they can offer. To use a baseball analogy, if they don’t at least get on base virtually every time at bat, they can’t keep their doors open, and they will lose their franchise. Add the introduction of eBooks, and the old models break down entirely—just as they broke down in the music industry when songs went digital. Will the printed word die? Not hardly. But it will never be what it once was, and we haven’t yet figured out what the new normal looks like.


The Last Professional

In returning to the rails – the river of steel – fifteen years after a childhood trauma that haunts him, young Lynden Hoover gets help from The Duke, an old hobo who calls America’s landscape his home and adheres to a time- honored code. Bonds are formed, and secrets exposed as The Duke flees Short Arm, his relentless and brutal nemesis.

The Duke mentors Lynden on life on the tracks, using the vibrant language of the boxcar life gleaned from years riding across great swaths of country. With the help of the trusted “knights of the road”, Lynden and The Duke head to a harrowing climax with Short Arm where generations collide and lives hang in the balance.