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I am so excited to be part of Urbane Publications 12 Days Of Christmas blog tour, and today I have a review to share with you of The Man Who Played with Trains by Richard Whittle.  Richard has also taken some time out to answer a few questions about his book, his reading and the road to publication, so sit back and enjoy!


Book Feature:

Description:

Cover 9781911331032(1).jpg

A gripping thriller for fans of Martin Cruz Smith, Jack Higgins and Robert Harris

Mining engineer John Spargo is distraught when his mother is attacked in her home and later dies from her injuries. He also discovers her home has been thoroughly searched.

Determined to track down her killer and discover the truth behind her death, John finds a connection between his late father’s wartime mine and the wreck of a U-Boat. The connection deepens when he discovers the diaries of the U-Boat captain and a wartime mission to spirit Göring to safety along with a fortune in stolen art. When John’s daughter Jez is kidnapped, he is contacted by a mysterious consortium. Her life hangs in the balance unless he can find the stolen art.
What is the link with his father’s abandoned mine? Who was the U-Boat captain? Did he survive and hide Göring’s treasures? John races against time to discover the truth…and in doing so may unearth secrets that were better left buried…

 

My Thoughts & Review:

One look at the description of this book was all it took for my interest to be piqued, I love WWII thrillers and anything that involves a bit of espionage, secrets and danger is always going to grab me!

Set over two timelines, The Man Who Played With Trains is a very cleverly written novel.  There is the story of John Spargo set in the present day, the tragic death of his mother following a horrific attack in her home has left him utterly distraught.  And whilst he is putting her affairs in order and sorting through her belongings he discovers a collection of journals written in German.  But this is only the beginning of the problems for John, his daughter is kidnapped and he must work out who killed his mother and why as well as find his daughter Jez.
Running parallel to this is the story of Theodore Volker, a German U-boat captain during WWII.  Theodore is a good man and good captain, he cares about his crew and doesn’t hold back when speaking his mind.  On his way home to be reunited with his young son he meets a stranger on a train who recruits him for a secret mission in the UK.

The writing is brilliant, you get a great sense of the settings and the characters with the great descriptions.  Although I initially felt more drawn to Theodore’s story, as the pace picked up I found that my attention was being drawn back to John in current day, and despite this being quite a hefty read it’s thrilling and exciting right the way through.  I particularity enjoyed seeing how the two timelines ran alongside each other, and it made this a very enjoyable read.  The plotting is clever and well thought out, its apparent from the details woven into the story that time and care has been taken to ensure that readers get a feeling of authenticity and feel immersed in the story.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers!

You can buy a copy of The Man Who Played With Trains via:

Amazon UK
Urbane Publications


Author Feature

Richard Whittle

Richard Whittle believes that he discovered the power of the novel and his love of writing at the age of eleven when he read Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose and Jenny. On his overseas trips many years later he armed himself with an excess-baggage mix of paperbacks that did not include crime novels – as an ex-policeman he had vowed never to read them, let alone write them. Now, years later, he no longer feels that way. His central characters, people like you and me, find that they have been dragged into situations beyond their control and from which there seems little chance of escape. For them, crimes are most definitely involved.

Richard has been a policeman, a police marksman and police motorcyclist, a diesel engine tester, professional engineering geologist and Chartered Engineer. He has worked in civil engineering, geothermal energy, nuclear and mining industries in seventeen countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas and is able to draw on a wealth of personal experiences. Well known in his field as a technical writer, he spent time as a book reviewer for technical journals and regularly contributed to professional publications.

As a spare-time novelist he had several short stories published. In 2002, writing as Alan Frost, he was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award. More recently, his self-published novel, Playpits Park, has been downloaded as an eBook more than 4000 times.
Richard has been a trustee of a Scottish Charitable Organisation, acting first as its project manager and then its technical advisor. He now writes full time. He currently lives in the Scottish Borders, not too far away from Edinburgh.

 

For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

I have been a policeman, diesel engine tester, mature student, engineer and geologist. As a geologist I often worked alone in godforsaken places, usually with nothing to do in the evenings except eat, drink and read. The drinking, I promise you, was modest. But the reading was not. Before leaving Heathrow or Gatwick I armed myself with paperbacks. After a while I started to fill my spare field notebooks with short stories (I even got two of the stories published).

Never, ever, did I think I had a story in me that had to come out. My work gave me so many ready-made backdrops: lost and alone in hundreds of square miles of forest in Canada (and there were bears!); having my passport seized in the airport of a Central African Republic, then taken at gunpoint and locked in a small room.

So, I had the scenery. What I needed now were characters and situations. That wasn’t too difficult. During my years in the police I’d come across plenty of those.

The Man Who Played Trains is a novel in two interwoven parts. One part, a contemporary story set in the north of Scotland, starts with an apparently pointless murder. The other, set in wartime Germany, is a tale of conspiracy and intrigue that the reader will guess is backstory to the Scottish murder, but (hopefully) is at a loss to know how or why. The two tales come together gradually.

 

 Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

It was a very long journey. The idea for The Man Who Played Trains came to me years ago. I knew the story I wanted to write and I spent long hours researching the German side of it, mostly in libraries. My big problem was that I didn’t know how best to present it. Then, as so often happens, the day job got in the way and I put away all my notes. Perhaps, one day, I would have time to write it…

My first published novel, Playpits Park, is around 80% flashback. The contemporary story moves seamlessly (so I’m told) into the past and back out again. It was an unsuitable format for The Man Who Played Trains. Finally I plumped for two separate, interlinked stories.

This might sound as if I decided what to write, wrote it, and then got published. As all writers will tell you, that isn’t the way it works. Several times over the years I became so discouraged by multiple rejections that I stopped submitting my work to agents and publishers. That does not mean I stopped writing, rewriting and editing. My hard drives and backups are a nightmare of novels and parts of novels – a digital attic of good stuff, bad stuff and indifferent stuff.

In 2016, Matthew Smith at independent publisher Urbane Publications, agreed to publish The Man Who Played Trains. I rewrote it for the umpteenth time and submitted it to the amazing Matthew.

 

 What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

I have just read Stephanie Merrit’s five novels written under her pen name S J Parris. The novels are well-written and well-plotted. I have Michael Connelly’s latest in my to-read pile, and Robert Harris’s Munich. Also, I have just received a parcel of books from Urbane, so I have plenty to go on with. Recommended reads? Any novels by Kate Atkinson, S G Maclean, John Grisham, Kazuo Ishiguru.

 

What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

Jennie, by Paul Gallico. It made me realise how emotionally powerful writing could be. I also discovered John Wyndham’s SF novels and read them all. The children’s section librarians eventually gave in and let me take out adult books. Well, I’m sure you know what I mean.

My father bought a large set of encyclopaedias and I remember spending weeks paging through them, reading every entry that interested me (how weird is that?)

Because I am basically a techie person, when I was young I read as many technical and scientific books as I did novels.

 

What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

Seeing 5-star reviews coming up on Amazon! I like to think that I write for myself rather than for readers, but in reality that is not true. The story is for me; the many rewrites and edits are for the reader. I know reviews aren’t everything, but positive ones are so encouraging. It means I have got things right.

 

 Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

Probably my greatest source of encouragement was Simon King, at the time a director at Random House. An early novel I submitted to the publisher attracted a personal reply, along with his red-penned edit of the first few pages. The two-page letter accompanying the returned typescript ended with ‘You will get published. It may take you some time‘.

Further encouragement came a few years later when I submitted a different novel, under a pseudonym, to the Crime Writers Association and was shortlisted for their Debut Dagger Award. At the award ceremony Ian Rankin presented me with a runner-up prize and said ‘Just keep writing…‘ No doubt this was oft-said advice to budding writers – but it was just what I needed to hear at the time.

 

Social Medial Links

Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/richard-whittle/

Amazon: https://goo.gl/a4lWwY

Richard’s blog:  https://playpitspark.wordpress.com/

Richard’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/richard1whittle

Richard’s Facebook:  http://bit.ly/2xolpZB

 

urbanechristmas

 

 

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