I have republished my novel “The Man Who Played Trains” because my publisher, Urbane Publications, has ceased trading. Paperback and Kindle versions are available on Amazon –
The Urbane version was a last minute publisher’s rush job that went out improperly proofed, with typos. My reissue has rectified these minor imperfections. Despite these, the novel received eighteen 5-star reviews!
Unfortunately Amazon cannot copy these reviews over from their old Urbane page. I have repeated them here:
Top reviews from United Kingdom
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 August 2017
This is a seriously good read. The narrative set in the last days of the Second World War from the German perspective is thoroughly convincing and the characters very well crafted. The sections of the book set in the present day far north of Scotland are spot on too – I’ve lived there. The word count is high but the skilful plot construction and narrative flow makes for a really good read. The ending was not what I expected; it was better than the possible endings I’d anticipated. There’s a lot of thought and substance in this book and I found it a hugely satisfying story from the first page to the very last.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 June 2017
The Man Who Played Trains. Richard Whittle
The style of writing, and the story, took me back to my days reading Hammond Innes and early Robert Ludlum in the late 70’s early 80’s. Grown up boys own stories. Stories of ordinary men pushed into unusual circumstances in subtle ways that are totally realistic.
In the modern day Mining engineer, and consultant, John Spargo, receives a phone call to tell him his mother is in hospital. Rushing to her bedside he finds she has been beaten up in a home raid. Sadly she dies and John sets out to find out what the person that raided her house was after. The house is in the little run down mining village of Kilcreg, a cul-de-sac town on the Scottish coast. The town used to have a mine, run by Spargo’s father, but since it closed there has been no work and the elderly population wouldn’t be responsible for the attack.
Meanwhile in 1944 a German U-boat captain, Theodore Volker is trying to get home to see his young son. He is a good man whose wife had been killed during an air raid, he looks after his crew, and speaks his mind about the state of the German war effort, and the way they are beginning to lose the war.
When Volker is confronted on a train, by a stranger, and taken to a Luftwaffe base in Berlin, it becomes obvious he is being recruited for a secret mission. A mission to the UK.
As things start to gather pace Sparo’s daughter is kidnapped and he takes on his own mission, to find his daughter and discover why his mother was killed, by who, and why.
It’s no supplies that the happenings during the end of World War 2 are connected with the happenings in modern day Scotland, but how.
This book blends the two story-lines together in an intriguing novel that has been an absolute pleasure to read.
This style of book has gone missing over the last few years in favour of unrealistic adventure thrillers. It’s good to have it back
Thank you Richard Whittle.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 December 2017
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!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 June 2017
I bought The Man Who Played Trains to read to my Dad, who has Alzheimer’s, hoping the subject and setting would ignite a spark of interest for reading again. It did this and more. I watched his head nod slowly as he remembered his passion for WWII stories, the words bringing back memories of his own childhood and his recognition of the modern tale that is cleverly woven together along with his excitement of becoming immersed in the mystery and intrigue.
I thoroughly enjoyable read, from Dad…and me!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 March 2018
‘The Man Who Played Trains’ is a cleverly plotted thriller, spanning half a century with its two tales – one set in WWII, where U Boot captain Theodor Volker has no idea what he is getting into when a high ranking officer seems to take an unusual interest in him. The other is set in the present, introducing John Spargo, a man without a clue to the precariousness of the situation he is about to encounter… his daughter, Jez, desperately tries to make her father see sense but little does she know the dangers lying before them…
I love this gripping thriller, I only wished I had not read the blurb previously as it gives something away which it should not have. That having said, it was a fascinating story in which the intricate plot moves forward and back in time: we find ourselves at the end of WWII with U-Boot commander Theodor Volker, when the Nazi’s are desperate to either get away themselves or to ‘relocate’ the treasures they stole, as well as in the current days with Spargo and his daughter, Jez. I loved Jez, the author has created such a strong, intelligent and feisty character in her. Even her father is lost without her! Their bond is strong and it is the backbone of this gripping thriller – I could easily picture them in real life.
Imagine ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ to be made into a film? Old mines in rural Scotland set against the history of the fall of the Third Reich with a little bit of sunny Spain in between, with several plotlines cunningly woven together. There were a few scenes.. I could easily picture them on the big screen (I cannot go into this as it would give away the plot but they would make for action-packed and gripping scenes, set against the dangers of nature!). ‘The Man that Played Trains,’ is an intriguing and engrossing story combining a whodunit with historical facts and fiction and dark criminals and devious organisations with a treasure hunt whilst the red thread consists of a poignant family history.
TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 June 2017
The Man Who Played Trains is the gripping new novel from Richard Whittle. I don’t usually read this type of book but I found it a really enjoyable read. If you’re a fan of crime and if you’re interested in the Second World War I would definitely recommend this book.
The novel is told across two timelines, in the present day and towards the tail end of World War Two. In the beginning of the novel we meet John Spargo whose mother has just died after a horrific attack leaving Spargo distraught. Whilst searching his mother’s property he uncovers a collection of old journals written in German and he wonders if the journals have a connection to what happened to his mother. We also encounter Theodore Volker in Germany, a German U-boat captain in the Second World War. Theodore is desperately trying to reach his son who is living with his grandparents. On his journey he is reunited with an old friend of his and is soon caught up in a dangerous situation which he has little control of.
I felt as though I really connected with the characters in this book. I found Theodore’s story slightly more interesting than John’s but towards the end of the book, John’s story picks up pace. I really wanted Theodore to be reunited with his son and I liked how Richard built up tension in his story as he made the journey there, particularly when he met up with his old friend. There were some surprising twists in this book which I didn’t see coming.
I really liked how Richard pulled the two timelines together in this very intricate and intelligently plotted plot. A really enjoyable read, thank you to Richard for sending me a copy to review.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 January 2018
Despite being a veteran of many thrillers, I still made the mistake of wondering where the author was going with the opening description of Spargo’s troubling dreams and whether or not I was going to care enough to get to the end. I’m certainly glad that I did because I really did not see the story returning to these visions in the very moving way that it did. Yes, it takes a few pages to get going and really to grab your attention but it is well worth the engagement. The dual narrative – not always easy to read and a real pig to write effectively – was woven into the modern narrative intricately and very intelligently. I note that it took the author a fair while to settle upon rendering the scenes set at the close of WW2 into the vivid present but I think he made the correct decision. It varies the tone and pace very nicely and creates tension throughout as the reader steps blindly – and simultaneousy – into the same dicey situations as does the U boat commander Theo Volker. The two narratives converge at express pace as the story moves towards its gripping climax and I did have problems putting the book down until well into the night. Also, as a former cop myself I was glad that he police procedural elements were plausible and well observed but not at all distracting or overplayed (as they can sometimes be in this genre). Because this book combines elements of a detective-led whodunnit, historical fiction and WW2 material, not to mention a healthy dose of conspiracy theory, it casts a broad appeal.
My only gripe is with the editing of the text: there are quite a few omissions of single words and one or two misspellings (e.g. ‘feint’ for ‘faint’). Fortunately, these don’t notably impede the story: I only had to re-read two sentences to ensure I had the sense right. That said, the proofreader might have done a slightly better job because the book is otherwise nicely presented. This is the only factor preventing a full 5…
4.8 * for a hugely satisfying page-turner!
Richard replied – Sorry about the typos etc, Mark. Unfortunately Urbane published an incomplete and unproofed version.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 July 2017
This book is a delicious blend of modern meets the past, in a gripping thriller that will have you begging for more. It not often after 500 plus pages I am screaming for a book not to end but this book had me from the first page. Set against the backdrop of the dark conspiracies of world war 2. This book can be enjoyed by both crime and history lovers alike. Mystery and drama just ooze off the page and I cannot put it down. I just loved it
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 August 2017
The best novel I have read for a long time. John Spargo, mine engineer, is drawn into a story which started in Germany at the end of World War 2. The plot moves back and forth in time revealing the machinations of powerful SS officers, and modern day underworld dealers in a ruthless search of the stolen art that the Nazis had hidden away.
The tale of how ordinary good people both suffered and sometimes survived these awful times plays a major part in Spargo’ s unravelling discoveries.
THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS RECEIVED ANOTHER SEVEN, 5-STAR, SHORTER REVIEWS.