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That Hell-Bound Train: 04/18/09
My favorite part of this year's issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction has been the classic reprints. March's reprint is "That Hell-Bound Train" by Robert Bloch who I only know for writing Psycho. The story appeared originally in the September 1958 issue and won a Hugo in 1959.
Martin is abandoned by his mother after his drunken father is killed by a train. He escape the orphanage and grows up doing odd jobs and crimes to stay alive. One night he meets the devil, here identified as "The Conductor" of the Hell-Bound train. He is given a watch which he can use to stop time at his perfect moment of happiness.
Mostly the story is that of Martin's life, where each year brings something new and interesting. He gets older and fatter but more successful and finds many different ways of being happy. He never though does find the perfect moment of happiness in life.
That's not to say Martin doesn't get his moment to one up the devil. He does in a true train-lover's way. It was a delightfully funny story and character driven. It holds up all these years later. I can see why it won the Hugo.