Night Train (1986)
“What seemed like a simple pursuit story has become an engaging parable of the responsibilities of creativity, the nature of self-worth, the redemptive power of love—perhaps the Meaning of Life itself. And the message, as Charlie reads it? ‘No matter how far down you get, you got to get up.’ ”
— Los Angeles Times
So … after the debacle with Louie & Women, my agent Dorothy Pittman was unable to sell anything of mine, and a few years later she died of cancer in her early forties. With Dorothy died the tradition of the great literary agents who represented writers as artists, not as material providers for the corporate re-run factories that now dominate our culture. She was my greatest ally and I am still searching for the likes of her today. One of the last things she did for me was to introduce me to a new publisher in San Francisco, Mercury House, and it was to them that I sold my novel Night Train.
If I've ever written a novel that should be a paperback, Night Train is that novel, and it has never had a paperback incarnation. A favorite of teenagers and Beat poets and rock musicians and potheads, Night Train, too, was barely promoted, hardly distributed, and only furtively reviewed. It took me ten years to convince another publisher to take a chance with a novel of mine.
Recently re-discovered, here is the entire review of Night Train that appeared in the LA Times on September 28, 1986, written by Tom Nolan, now an acclaimed biographer, his latest opus about the big band leader Artie Shaw.
In his fourth novel, Todd Walton, author of the critically praised Inside Moves and Louie & Women, delivers an unusual and often gripping tale that begins like a hard-boiled crime story and becomes something resembling science fiction. Walton evokes a paranoid romanticism reminiscent of Craig Nova, Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon as he tracks the fate of Lily and Charlie, two down-and-out musicians on the run from an army of “very well-connected” thugs out not just for blood but for spirit. Fleeing by car, foot, air, bicycle, train, covered wagon and dirigible, the two make their way with Lily’s baby from Sunset Boulevard to a mountain retreat in Oregon. Eluding all manner of physical and mental danger, Lily and Charlie take their final stand with a commune of utopian artists.
Their odyssey is seedily realistic, wildly surrealistic, often erotic and only occasionally a bit precious. What seemed like a simple pursuit story has become an engaging parable of the responsibilities of creativity, the nature of self-worth, the redemptive power of love—perhaps the Meaning of Life itself. And the message, as Charlie reads it? “No matter how far down you get, you got to get up.”