A Lover of Books

Archive for the day “March 15, 2017”

Extract from ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ by Richard Whittle

Did you enjoy my interview with Richard Whittle?  I’ve now got an extract from ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ for you to read.

 

Book Blurb

Mining engineer John Spargo is distraught when his mother is attacked in her home and later dies from her injuries. Her home has been ransacked. 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…

 

Extract

Extract from ‘The Man Who Played Trains’

 

Advertisements

Interview with Richard Whittle

I’m delighted to have Richard Whittle on my blog.  His new book, ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ is being published next month.  I asked Richard some questions.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ please?

The Man Who Played Trains is a crime novel and thriller in which two stories, apparently separate, run side by side. In one, mining engineer John Spargo is distraught when his mother is attacked in her home and later dies from her injuries. In the other, wartime U-boat captain Theodor Volker, on leave after a gruelling mission, is accosted by a stranger while waiting for a train to take him to the south of Germany to see his young son.

Though the stories appear to be separate, the reader gradually becomes aware of connections between them. John Spargo, desperate to understand who murdered his mother, and why, finds a link between his late mine-manager father’s wartime mine and the wreck of a U-boat found off the Scottish coast. 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.

A mysterious consortium contacts John to say they have abducted his daughter, Jez. Unless he can meet their unreasonable demands, her life is at risk.

 

When I first saw the cover I was fascinated by it and I still am.  Where do those steps lead to?

The Man Who Played Trains has two main characters. Both are ‘underground men’. John Spargo is a mining engineer. The steps might well represent John Spargo about to come out from darkness in so many different ways. Also, perhaps, Theodor Volker emerging from a basement in Berlin. Or, possibly, from Hermann Göring’s Carinhall bunker…

 

Where did you get the idea for this book from?

This is a difficult one, and quite personal. Before WW2 my mother had a German boyfriend, the son of a ship’s captain. Just before the outbreak of war her father banned her from seeing him. I believe the boyfriend died in the war. I have often wondered what would have happened had my mother married that first boyfriend (apart from me being years older than I am now!). Having said all that, The Man Who Played Trains is not in the least bit autobiographical. Nor is it a war story. You asked me where I got the idea from. You will have to read the book to find out how that little bit of history fits the plot.

 

How long did it take you to write?

Several years ago, before setting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to write The Man Who Played Trains, I did almost a year of background research. Then, after drafting around 50,000 words, I put it aside and started another novel, returning to The Man Who Played Trains some months later. It is difficult to say how long it took to write, as I rewrote it at least twice.

I always have two or three novels in the pipeline, revisiting them every few months to add chapters and to revise and rewrite. Writing this way has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that I seldom get ‘writers’ block’. Almost invariably, in the intervening months, the next part of the set-aside novel has developed in my head. Another advantage is that when I restart, I have to read, and therefore edit, everything that I have written so far – though some would call that a disadvantage. Happily, it seems to work for me.

 

Can you relate to any of your characters?

I am always in my characters’ heads. I have to be, it is the only way I can see what they see, think what they think, and say what they say. I try to make my lead characters ‘victims of circumstance’, who become entangled in situations not of their own making. From a professional point of view I can relate to John Spargo: as a geologist and engineer I spent time working underground, in mines, tunnels and caverns.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?

Always in coffee shops, seldom at home. I have a favourite café in a small, family-run garden centre south of Edinburgh, where they leave me alone and let me write.

 

Would you say that you are a people watcher?

Not really. I am more of a people rememberer. I have been a policeman, a diesel engine tester, a mature student, an engineering geologist and director. I can recall situations, individuals and conversations, even from way back. It is rather like having my own Aladdin’s Cave.

 

What has your experience of getting published been like?

The Man Who Played Trains will be published by Urbane Publications this April. Matthew Smith and his staff at Urbane have been a godsend because they have taken away the pressure I felt when I self-published my first novel, Playpits Park, with Amazon. For that novel I formatted the whole book, I even designed the cover. My previous attempts to find a publisher had elicited responses such as this does not fit with our current list. Or, more often, it is difficult to place your work in any genre…

 

Will there be any more books?

Undoubtedly. I am writing two others. In no way are they alike. Depending on my mood, I bounce between them. Is that weird? Maybe, but it works for me.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Just keep writing! – advice given to me by Ian Rankin when he presented me with a prize when I was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

Kate Atkinson, Michael Connelly, Graham Greene, John Grisham, Robert Harris, Shona Maclean, Peter May, Ian Rankin. Note the alphabetical order, not order of preference.

 

Do you actually like trains?

I have always been interested in engines of all kinds. Like many boys of my generation I was a ‘train spotter’, standing on railway station platforms, ticking off engine numbers in a small book. Modern diesel and electric trains do not appeal to me in the same way.

Despite my novel’s title, railways play a very small part in the story, though the small part they play is crucial to the plot. Also, the man who played trains is not John Spargo…

 

Links

Amazon: https://goo.gl/a4lWwY

Waterstones: https://goo.gl/8riR5d

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

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

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

 

 

 

Guest Post by Rose McGinty

Rose McGinty’s debut novel, ‘Electric Souk’ is out on the 23rd March.  I am absolutely thrilled to have Rose on my blog today with a guest post.

 

Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

This is my first piece about Electric Souk for a blog review and I am delighted it is for Sonya’s site as her love of reading shines from the screen and she is such a supporter of new writers. Sonya asked me what inspired my story and to say something of my travels. I really enjoyed thinking back to my time in the desert and I hope you enjoy a glimpse into that world too.

Electric Souk started out as a letter home – from the desert. I had taken a job in the health service in the Middle East.  The day started early and finished by 1pm.  Now, I had always craved living in a culture where you could while away the afternoon in dreams. But I was somewhere that so saturated the senses that sleep was impossible. So while the desert afternoon was still I wrote a diary and long letters home, based on  my entries.

My letters at first documented nights in the shisha-smoky souk, or the bizarre scraps I found myself in as a lone, white, western woman. Such as the time when I had a meeting with the Director of the ambulance service and was given the typically hazy desert directions of ‘Go to the hospital and her office is next to the line-up of ambulances.’ I found a line-up of ambulances at the A and E.  I had my doubts and the receptionist quickly put me right.  The ambulance station was on the other side of the hospital complex.

‘Shukran,’ I called to her as I turned to walk back out. The receptionist and three porters bore down on me, ‘Lady! Lady! Where are you going?’ I was heading to the ambulance station.  ‘Are you crazee?’ It was at most a ten minute walk, admittedly in forty degree heat and humidity like a wet velvet towel.

There wasn’t a hope I was going to be allowed to walk there. I was going to be late. I didn’t have time to call and wait for a taxi. Taxis were almost as mythical as magic carpets. If you did manage to persuade a taxi to come and pick you up, you were in for a minimum hour wait in a city where the roads were permanently grid locked with Land Cruisers, and mostly the taxis never turned up.

I could walk I insisted, trying again to exit, managing to get half a foot over the threshold. I should have known better. Within seconds everyone in the A and E was shrieking at me. Step forward my hero in a green boiler suit.  Sami was a paramedic and he was heading over to the ambulance station. He would give me a lift. I was so grateful it didn’t click immediately that within the next minutes I would find myself hurtling downtown, the opposite direction to the station, in an ambulance.

Sami explained that the hospital enforced a strict one way system, which meant that whenever the ambulances needed to return to base they had to detour downtown. I gulped, fished out my mobile and rang my office to ask them to let the ambulance Director know I was going to be late.  A trip downtown meant a good hour in the snarling traffic, at least. As I explained my predicament on the phone, that I had got a lift but was stuck in traffic, carefully neglecting to mention I was in the back of an ambulance, I felt a sharp lurch.  Sami had stamped on the accelerator. The undeniable wail of the siren somewhat gave away my mode of transportation. I got to my meeting pretty much on time, Arabic time, but I never heard the end of it back at the office.

As the weeks turned to months my initial thrill of being somewhere so completely unfamiliar and disorienting wore off, and my diaries and letters became my life line.  The ripples of recession in Europe and America lapped at the edge of the desert. Gas and oil prices plunged deep. Threats of purging ex pats from government jobs intensified.  Suspicion about foreigners spread. The champagne brunches at seven star hotels lost a touch of their wild abandon. Was it time to cut and run? Would there be a coup? What was the truth about the rumours of a power struggle at the palace? The locals were whispering about it and after all power never transferred without bloodshed out here. You just can’t sweep away the desert, however many times a day you take a broom to the piles of sticky, red sand that insinuated through every tiny crevice.

Why did our mobile phones click, when they never did that at home? Who was the man now sitting on a stool outside my office every day? Who had been in my apartment, gone through my things yet not taken anything, just moved everything by an inch, and left the door open and a stubbed out cigarette – to let me know? And that night, that pitch, blistering night out in the desert – what really happened then?

Back home, free from the sand djinn, they still scorched my dreams. The only way I knew how to deal with them was to write. I took up my letters and diaries and pulled out morsels, popped them in the mouths of the characters that haunted my night terrors and Souk spoke as I put my pen to the page.

If you enjoyed this piece, you can read more about the moments that formed a backdrop to Electric Souk at my blog http://rosemcginty.wordpress.com

 

Links

‘Electric Souk’ is available from Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/electric-souk/

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Electric-Souk-Rose-McGinty/dp/1911129821/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489520881&sr=1-1

Twitter – @rosemcginty

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: