Fantastic review for The Man Who Played Trains!

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I am one of those writers who doesn’t particularly want to be famous (fat chance of that anyway). What I want is to write novels that people enjoy reading – and, I suppose, sell enough of them to keep my publisher, Urbane, happy.

My reviews on Amazon are mainly 5-stars. Check out  The Man Who Played Trains

What I did not expect (never in my wildest dreams, as they say…) was a review as stunning as this one

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True Tale – MUNCHIES WITH THE MAFIA?

Readers sometimes ask me where I get the ideas for my novels. Am I a people watcher? Do I do a lot of research? The answer to the first is no, not really. The answer to the second is always the same – yes, I do a lot of research. I did two years – at least – before I started to write The Man Who Played Trains. It didn’t stop there, because during the novel’s rewrites and edits I did even more, it is important to get everything right. The story is one thing; the factual parts on which it is based must be correct.

This is the third of my True Tales. Read this and the others and you will get an idea where I get my material.

For reasons you will soon understand, I won’t name names or places – except that this was San Francisco, California, in the late nineteen-eighties. I was working as a consultant to a drilling company, a firm owned by a long chain of other firms (you know the kind of thing, numerous addresses in small print along the bottom of stationery). I had no idea what these other firms did, nor did I care. Nor, thankfully, can I recall their names.

My visit was short, no more than a week. I flew into San Francisco International where I picked up a hire car reserved for me by the firm, probably the most powerful car I have ever driven. It was quite pointless in a city like SF. I had expected something much smaller.

After a couple of days in the company’s office I was stopped in a corridor by the CEO, who asked me if I would care to meet him later, for supper. It would be a small affair, he said. And it would be early, because the big boss, Mister Giovanni, did not like to eat late. Supper, for me, was something I had when I was a boy. Back then, for reasons still unknown to me, I was given a snack and drink to be consumed shortly before bedtime. What the CEO meant, of course, was dinner. He gave me the address of an Italian restaurant and suggested I meet him there. Seven o’clock, he said, and warned me not to be late. Mister Giovanni, he added, would not like that at all.

To be sure I’d find the restaurant that evening I set off mid-afternoon, heading away from the places I was getting to know (my hotel in the city, the old harbour and the tramcars). All I remember of the place was that it was in a run-down neighbourhood with not a soul to be seen. I parked up, got out of the car, and walked to an entrance little more than a door in a wall. While staring at it, with my back to the street, a woman from apparently nowhere sidled up to me. She was mid-twenties, with high heels and big-breasts – a lady of the night in broad daylight. She asked me if I needed anything. Anything at all.

I did need something, I realised. I needed to get the hell out of there. A car had drawn up across the street and its two occupants were now out of it, leaning on it Humphrey Bogart-style, staring across at me. I walked to the middle of the street. From there, but no further, I called out that I was lost. They said nothing.

That evening, wearing a pale, lightweight suit, I arrived at the restaurant at ten minutes to seven and found the door in the wall locked. I waited in the car for a while and then called my CEO. He had changed his mind, he told me. He wasn’t coming.

At exactly seven the door in the wall opened. A man dressed in black smiled at me mechanically as he ushered me in to a long narrow room that surprisingly was busy with waiters and diners. A man had come in behind me and together we followed the maître’d (or his Italian equivalent), down to the far end of what, surprisingly, was a very plush room.

Beyond a floor-to-ceiling blue velvet curtain was a private dining area as big as the restaurant space I had just walked through. A long table sat centrally. It was about the size of that in Michaelangelo’s Last Supper, except that unlike Michaelangelo’s table, this one had seats on both sides. There were seats across the far end of it too, just a short row of three. Unlike all the others in the room, these chairs had arms. I was shown to my place, five down from the top end and three up from the curtain – a definite pecking order. Being close to the exit seemed a good place to be.

The three chairs at the end of the table stayed empty. The others filled up, all but the one reserved for my CEO. At fifteen minutes past seven, three men slipped in around the velvet curtain. The first man, despite the warm California evening, wore an overcoat over his shoulders, a coat not removed by the maître d’ as might be expected but by the last of the three men to come in, a huge man dressed in working clothes and built like a brick outhouse. He hung the coat on an empty wooden coat stand in the corner of the room while the maître ‘d did that thing with the chair with the arms, pulling it right out, guiding Mister Giovanni into it and slipping it gently forwards. The third man in the group carried a leather bag that he set down by his chair. He was, I learned later, Mister Giovanni’s financial director.

What else happened? Not much. Hardly anything was said. During the meal those around me swapped niceties, including a whispered comment that Mister Giovanni wasn’t there to see us, we were there to see him. What I didn’t expect, but probably should have done, was that a number of the diners tucked huge white napkins into their collars before they tackled their several-course pasta-based meal. Oh, I almost forgot. The event was paid for at the end by the man with the leather bag, in cash. For everyone to see.

How do I remember detail like that from thirty years ago? (Seriously, would you forget something like that?) Was it Mafia? How do I know? They all seemed so very nice.

There are so many ways such real events can be turned into fiction.

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Don’t tell him, Pike!*

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Sometimes I stumble upon things that I find hard to believe. How about this one? I came across the obituary of Günter Behnisch, in Germany a respected, well-known architect who died in 2010. His obituary describes him as the man who gave post-war Germany a new face. Look at the tower in the photo above, and then at the black and white pic. Notice anything? The tower on the architect’s model? The gun platform on the u-boat? A new face? Really?

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The more I Googled, the better it got. Coincidence? I don’t think so. If you are unconvinced, here are more:

 

Still unconvinced? Would help if I told you that before he became an architect, Günter Behnisch was a U-boat commander in WWII?

Herr Behnisch, it seems, had a wonderful sense of humour.

*Dad’s Army

 

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Slime mould in your grass

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I have read that this stuff (or yellow variations of it), is harmless. It is not. According to Professor Roy Watling this ‘Dog’s Vomit Fungus’ fuligo septica has spores that can enter the pores in your skin and cause VERY NASTY THINGS to happen there. It has appeared in my grass in Autumn (Fall). If you get it, don’t mow it or touch it. Use a plastic bag over your hand and do that dog-poo thing with it. Tear up the grass to lift it up. Bag it and bin it. Best not to breathe while you are doing it. And wash your hands, of course. Here endeth…. etc.

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RICHARD WHITTLE’S LATEST THRILLER

IMAGINE…

A murder in a remote village in Scotland, the victim brutally beaten
A damaged boat in harbour, a strange crewman
A derelict house, an abandoned mine
Then other, seemingly unrelated deaths…

THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS

Published by Urbane

 

Now at Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and all good bookshops

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PRESS RELEASE – The Man Who Played Trains

THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS

The gripping new thriller from the author of ‘Playpits Park’

Press information for immediate release: 10/05/2017

The Man Who Played Trains is Richard Whittle’s compelling second novel, following the acclaimed debut Playpits Park. A gripping thriller that will appeal to fans of Martin Cruz Smith, Jack Higgins and Robert Harris, The Man Who Played Trains is an addictive and complex story of conspiracy, murder, secrets and a race against time to discover the truth. It publishes 25th May 2017.

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…

 Richard Whittle says: ‘I’m definitely a fan of the secrets people keep, and like to explore the dynamics of those who keep them – and those who want to reveal them! The second world war in particular provides a wealth of ‘conspiracies’ and outlandish plots for a writer to sink their teeth into, and there’s something compelling about exploring the impact of history on the lives, ambitions and emotions of contemporary people. My 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.

THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS by RICHARD WHITTLE:

PUBLISHING DATE: 25th May 2017 by Urbane Publications

ISBN: 978-1911331032

PRICE: £8.99

DIMENSIONS: B format paperback. 520 pages

CATEGORY: Thriller, war thriller, conspiracy thriller, action and adventure

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For further information, review copies and interviews please contact Matthew Smith matthew@urbanepublications.com / +44 (0)7578890446

 

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Crime, mystery, thriller!

The Man Who Played Trains is published by Urbane Publications, available in May 2017 from your bookshop, or online from the usual suspects. It is not a war story, despite the flag – though the flag is there for a reason…

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Don’t be fooled by the title…

… of my latest novel, The Man Who Played Trains

IMAGINE…
A murder in a remote village in Scotland, the victim brutally beaten
Nobody knows why, not you, not the police
A damaged boat in harbour, a strange crewman
A derelict house, an abandoned mine
Then more, seemingly unrelated deaths

So why that title? Why The Man Who Played Trains?

Buy: Amazon

Buy: Waterstones

Buy: Browns

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Interview with Richard Whittle

The Man Who Played Trains is due to be published by Urbane Publications in April. I was recently interviewed by A Lover of Books about my novel. Click on the blue link…

Interview with Richard Whittle

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Waterstones: The Man Who Played Trains

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December 22, 2016 · 5:10 pm