Mark Twain thought of a little competition back in 1876 with his friend William Dean Howells. Twain proposed that they select a "good and godly gang" of authors, including James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Bret Harte, and Henry James, to write a story for The Atlantic Monthly. The story would be based around a specific plot that'll be devised by Twain.

So each author would be asked to write his own version of a story which had to follow the same basic plot. But sadly none of the other authors had any interest in the project. Howells couldn't convince anyone to participate and finally gave up on the idea.

Twain, nevertheless, went ahead with his project anyway, and finished his story. Twain was so excited by the idea, he wrote his version of the story titled "A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage" in just two days, according to current Atlantic editor Michael Kelly.

Nearly a decade later, a public library in Buffalo, New York asked Twain if he would like to donate the manuscript of this work for their collection. Twain willingly offered the second half of the manuscript, but the first half, he said, was missing. He presumed that it had been destroyed by the printer.

That was the story then. But as it recently turned out, Twain ultimately did find the first half too and forwarded it on to the curator at the Buffalo library. The curator hoped to bind the first half, but somehow could never find the time, and the half of manuscript stayed locked up in a trunk at his home. After his death, his widow kept the trunk but never opened it up - until very recently!

And so "A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage" was published and distributed by WW Norton and Company in September 2001.

The story is not very great, but it's still fun and light reading. It features a mysterious, sophisticated stranger who turns up mysteriously in a small Missouri village and starts several small troubles among farm folk "whose hearts were in hogs and corn."

To read first two chapters of the story, go to

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