The Man Who Played Trains Richard Whittle

 

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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.

Pages: 480

Publisher: Urbane Pulications

Available on Amazon for the Kindle

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Notes of a Russian Sniper and American Sniper

Notes of a Russian Sniper Vassilli Zaitsev

American Sniper    Chris Kyle

As well as police procedural novels one of my passions in reading is biography’s or biographical accounts of historic events.

I’m not into celebrity, its usually Military, Fire, Police or Adventurers that I read. Recently I have read two books autobiographical books about Snipers.

Notes of a Russian Sniper-Vassilli Zaitsev is the book, and the person, that the film Enemy at the Gates was based on and is an account of a Russian Soldier who is recruited to the army during the second World War.

Transferred from training straight to the battle of Stalingrad Zaitsev recounts the utter devastation of the city during the siege by the German Forces. Describing hand-to-hand fighting and bombing in a strangely matter-of –fact way that transports the reader to the heart of the battles.

Zaitsev soon found a notoriety amongst his fellow fighters (both civilian and military) as a brave man, although he would not say so himself, its was not until he had been on the front line for a while that people realised he was a good shot. He had been raised in a family where hunting was a way of life and lying still patiently waiting for a shot came as second nature.

As word spread amongst the Russians he quickly became a folk hero and had a big effect on the moral of his fellow fighters.

He also gained a reputation amongst he Germans who tried to identify and target him. Crack snipers from the German Army were dispatched to find and kill him, some even came close.

This book not only describes Zaitsev’s experiences but its also one of the most descriptive books I’ve read on the siege of Stalingrad.

The other book I read was American Sniper by Chris Kyle. From 1999-2009 Kyle was a sniper for the American Seals special forces teams. He holds the record number of kills for an American sniper. The book describes Kyle’s exploits but the realm of modern warfare. He describes taking shots from 1000’s of metres, working in teams where he is guarded by groups of other soldiers with air cover and evacuation helicopters as part of the operations.

The two books could not cover such different conflicts.

The two authors are very similar in character, although Zaitsev does not go into his personal life as deeply as Kyle.

The comparisons are easy to see in their ethics and how they thought with one big difference. Zaitsev was at war to survive, Kyle fought a war on a different continent to where his lived and chose to do what he did. Zaitsev did it out of necessity.

It strikes me as strange that although both of these films have been made into blockbuster Hollywood films most people will only know of Kyle.

Most people don’t even realise that The Enemy at the Gate was based on a real person.

For me Notes of a Russian Sniper is by far the better book, and I suspect it is also the more accurate reflection of events.

Both these books are worth reading, in fact I’d suggest they were both read, but if you only read one.

Read Notes of A Russian Sniper.