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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Twain story printed 126 years late
The July cover of the Atlantic Monthly magazine
The July cover of the Atlantic Monthly magazine
Almost 100 after the death of American author Mark Twain one of his stories has finally made it into print.

The novella A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage was written 126 years ago but remained unpublished until Monday when it was printed in the Atlantic Monthly literary magazine in the US, much as the author originally intended.

I bought the story for somewhat more than we would have in 1876

Michael Kelly, editor Atlantic Monthly
The story forms part of a literary competition that urges would-be collaborators to write their own endings to the tale.

In 1876 the author pitched the novella to the Atlantic magazine as part of a literary stunt - Twain offered to create a skeleton plot with other writers on the Atlantic's staff adding flesh to the story.

But no one in the Atlantic's literary circle wanted to finish the story and it was never printed.

Full circle

The story was lost in 1876 but resurfaced in 1930 in the possession of a book seller before exchanging hands throughout the 20th Century, without ever being published.

It came full circle when the Mark Twain estate agreed it could finally be published as part of a competition to finish the novella in the manner Twain intended.

Michael Kelly, editor of the Atlantic, told BBC News Online: "It's late; but better late than never."

He added: "I bought the story for somewhat more than we would have in 1876."

Described as an "early example of the mystery genre" the novella features feuding brothers, a pair of young lovers and a mysterious polyglot stranger.

Long history

Now, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, in New York, is sifting through the efforts of about 300 authors who have tried to complete the novel after launching a competition.

The area has a long history with Twain - the author once lived there - and the library is the home of the original, handwritten manuscript of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

"Its discovery matters beyond what it means to this magazine because of when Twain wrote it," said Mr Kelly.

"He was in the middle of Huckleberry Finn and was somewhat stuck and not sure how it was going.

"The story is interesting because it bridges the gap between Tom Sawyer [Twain's previous novel] and Finn."

The novella touches on many of the darker aspects which are drawn out in Huckleberry Finn.

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