To the End of the War
“Night Train” is from James Jones’s story collection, To The End Of The War (Open Road Integrated Media, 2011), a selection of Jones’s previously unpublished fiction. Jones is best known for his iconic World War II novels, From Here To Eternity, completed in 1950, and The Thin Red Line, which includes autobiographical scenes from Jones’s participation in the battle of Guadacanal.
Jones first effort to fictionalize his war experiences was submitted to Scribner’s under the title They Shall Inherit the Laughter, but never published. George Henrick rescued parts of the manuscript and assembled them into the interrelated stories that appear in To The End Of The War.
Like Johnny Carter in “Night Train,” Jones went AWOL and spent a night travelling to Asheville, North Carolina in 1943. Henrick suggests that Jones’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, may have rejected the manuscript because the patriotic public wasn’t ready for the “booming wartime wasteland with vapid USO helpers: brainwashed civilians with unrealistic views about war and drunken, carousing, and prevaricating soldiers on home leave.”
This is the way it was, Jones defiantly declared, says Henrick. Henrick adds in his introduction: “Maxwell Perkins had an inkling that Jones was giving a realistic picture of his world in late 1943, but he was unable to help Jones reshape his story. Perkins timidly believed the American public was not interested in Jones’s subject and that civilians and military people would have been insulted by the presentations. Perkins was probably wrong.”
“Night Train” displays Jones’s enormous talent for dialogue and scene and demonstrates why we are fortunate to have this story rescued almost seventy years after it was written.