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“As long as a book would write itself,” Mark Twain said, “I was a faithful and interested amanuensis and my industry did not flag, but the minute that the book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures and conducting its conversations, I put it away and dropped it out of my mind.” This he did in 1876, when Twain set aside the first half of Huckleberry Finn, which he did not pick up again until three years later. Instead, he took up a project: Twain suggested to William Dean Howells, his friend and editor of the Atlantic, that the magazine hold a competition in which several authors write full stories based on the same skeleton plot, written by Twain. Although he hoped to get such literati as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry James on board, one thingin this casedid not lead to another. Twain’s own version of the story, A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage, is being published for the first time in book form this year. Writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr. (pictured) brackets the weird fable with a foreword and afterword, explaining the book’s long road to print and putting it into context in Twain’s life and career. Blount will read at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. Free. (202) 347-5495. (Janet Hopf)