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Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America Hardcover – February 22, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One would be lucky to draw Kisor as a seat partner on a long train trip, for this book-review editor of the Chicago Sun Times is deferential and polite, a master at consequential chit-chat and full of train lore, which he makes interesting whether or not you happen to share his ecstasy in rolling stock. And Kisor ( What's That Pig Outdoors? ) is seemingly expert at compensating for his deafness. Hours before he boards Amtrak's California Zephyr in Chicago, he wanders the train yards looking over the locomotives with an eye for their design and technology; then he checks out the Zephyr's kitchen, renews acquaintance with the chef and asks about the menus. So curious is Kisor about everything happening around him and about the train crew and passengers, who in short order tell him all about themselves, that the miles click away pleasurably. The Zephyr's timetable is scheduled to provide optimum daylight scenery, giving Kisor the opportunity to recall the history of the areas he passes through and to comment on the vistas. And there's rarely a boring lull because Kisor inevitably has something lively to say, whether it's about the local newspapers, train toilets or thermal baths. Readers will be sorry to leave his company at trip's end, in Oakland (mile 2416). Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kisor, the book editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and author of What's That Pig Outdoors? ( LJ 4/15/90), is intimately familiar with the California Zephyr , a popular Amtrak run from Chicago to Oakland. He uses a run to Oakland to point out the stunning beauty along the route and highlight its rich history. He also explains well the special appeal of long-distance train travel--the sense of community that develops on the train, the local newspapers available from big and small towns along the way, and the relaxing atmosphere of the coach car. Particularly strong are the stories about the crew that makes these long runs possible. Stories and interviews with the engineer, stewards, chef, conductor, and other Amtrakers and their "trains-from-hell" stories make this a superb piece on railroad travel in the United States. An excellent choice for most public libraries, especially those along the route of the Zephyr .
- David Schau, Kanawha Cty. P.L., Charleston, W.Va.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; illustrated edition edition (February 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081291984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812919844
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henry Kisor is the retired book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times as well as the author of three nonfiction books and three mystery novels. He is also the co-author of one children's book.

He is the author of a series of mystery novels set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Season's Revenge (2003), A Venture into Murder (2005), Cache of Corpses (2007), and Hang Fire (2013). A fifth novel, Tracking the Beast, is forthcoming in 2015.

His nonfiction works are What's That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness (1990 and 2010), Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America (1994) and Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet (1997).

His books have been published abroad in German, Dutch and United Kingdom editions.

He writes two blogs, The Reluctant Blogger and The Whodunit Photographer.
He was the book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1978 to his retirement in 2006, after five years in the same position with the old Chicago Daily News.

His reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and on MSNBC.com. Between 1977 and 1982 he was an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. From 1983 to 1986 he wrote a weekly syndicated column on personal computers that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Orlando Sentinel, Seattle Times and other newspapers.

He was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1981. The Friends of Literature awarded him the first James Friend Memorial Critic Award in 1988 and the Chicago Foundation for Literature Award for Nonfiction in 1991 for What's That Pig Outdoors? In 1991 Trinity College awarded him a honorary Doctor of Letters degree. In 2001 he was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.

Educated at Trinity College (B.A., 1962) in Hartford, Conn., and at Northwestern University (M.S.J., 1964) in Evanston, Ill., Kisor began his newspaper career in 1964 with the Evening Journal in Wilmington, Del.

He winters in Evanston, Illinois, and summers in Ontonagon, Michigan, with his wife, Deborah Abbott. They have two grown sons, Colin, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (m. Melody Pershyn), and Conan, a corporate communications editor and writer for the Boeing Company (m. Annie Tully). They also have two grandsons, William Henry Kisor and Conan Emmet Kisor; two granddaughters, Elizabeth Maria Kisor and Alice Flynn Kisor.

Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed reading about the history of the train.
mmengel
I wanted to know about the Zephyr but not down to baking potatoes and obtaining missing silverware from another nearby train.
Amazon Customer
I could imagine myself riding in the Zephyr as I read the book.
Eric Aros

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jbutterworth@ups.edu on September 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful look into the travels of the people who ride Amtraks California Zephyr. This is a wonderful human intrest book that will facinate you wether you are a railroad fan or not. The stories of the peoples lives, and the reasons that brought them to the train, are facinating. It is a must have for anyone who has ever experienced, or wanted to experience the thrill of riding the rails!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 18, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kisor clearly enjoys train travel, and while he loves trains he wisely refrains from burying the reader in the sort of minutia that rail buffs feed on. Seldom does the story drag.
The style is open and friendly, and it's clear that Kisor has respect and affection for the staff and passangers he meets on the train.
The narrative style reminds me a little of John McPhee; Kisor has the same talent for fading into the background and letting the story tell itself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eric Aros on July 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I could imagine myself riding in the Zephyr as I read the book. Great vivid pictures that I could play out in my own mind. Only negative was that he and another passenger spoke about some mystery novel for a chapter. Other than that, I would suggest this book to any railfan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Started reading this book on my first USA train ride in 25 years, the Zephyr heading to Chicago. With the exception of him expounding on a mystery story he and another passenger tried to concoct the book kept my attention. Essentially it is a story of taking the Chicago to San Francisco train and events on that trip, histories of points along the route, and rail anecdotes of all sorts woven into the train trip. The book also offered useful insights in my trip such as the fact that sleeper compartment passengers had a special lounge they could adjourn to in Chicago. It all makes me want to hop aboard again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Trusedell on May 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very warm and affectionate narrative of the Zephyr's journey from Chicago to California. Although some of the info is dated (first published in 1992), an afterword brings us up-to-date about Amtrak and the Zephyr. Kisor has written a very informative book-part travelogue, part history, part interview (of the crew, various passengers). As long and leisurely as the trip itself, Zephyr will appeal to all rail fans. All aboard!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mmengel on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was on board the California Zephyr while reading this book...that made it that much more enjoyable. I really enjoyed reading about the history of the train. The author was on board and talked to different Amtrak employees. Learned so much
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Degermark on May 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I rode the Zephyr from Chicago to Reno last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because I read Henry's book beforehand. I knew what to expect, where the good scenery was going to be and was able to better appreciate the hard work that the crew endures in order to make the trip a pleasant one. I was also privileged to meet Reggie Howard, had a nice conversation with him during a lull in his duties, and enjoyed the book even more after he autographed my copy. I enjoyed the trip so much that I am riding the Empire Builder from Chicago to Pasco in three weeks. Happy Rails!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. E. Lavoie on May 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent detail and research. The authenticy is precise. It's highly evident that the author spent time riding the rails and documenting his travels. Railfans would like this book.
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