Spargo sat alone in the hotel bar, picking at crisps and nuts. Sipping at the whisky, he remembered the no alcohol warning he’d been given at Raigmore when they dosed him with painkillers. He limped to the bar again. Came back with a coffee.
‘Looks like you’ve lost fifty dollars and won five.’ The voice was distant and had a soft Texan drawl. ‘Don’t much like drinking alone,’ it continued. ‘You mind if I come over?’
Spargo grunted. The last thing he needed was company. He swivelled in his chair and caught sight of a tall, lean man lifting a chair.
‘Couldn’t help noticing you were driving a Volvo,’ the man said as he carried the chair towards Spargo’s table. ‘Great cars. Had one just like it in the Gulf.’
Spargo willed the man to go away. It didn’t work. He turned again, this time seeing him properly for the first time and taking in his weather-worn features and long dark sideboards. Also the white shirt, the white designer jeans and the jewellery. Draped around the man’s neck was a heavy chain – solid gold, Spargo guessed. On it hung a heavy medallion – more gold – that swung hypnotically when the man moved. And there was still more gold, two signet rings, a watch and its expanding strap. The only metallic object he wore that wasn’t gold was a heavy belt buckle of brass. There was, Spargo realised, something of Elvis about the man…
EXTRACT – THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS
Mr Luis pronounced Mister like Meester. Sinister, the way a Mexican bandit might say it. Didn’t look sinister though, not upstairs on the bus. If anything he looked a wee bit camp with his knees tight together and his hands clasped in his lap. To Midge this was part of the man’s cover, a certain coolness Midge would have been happy to emulate – and may have done had the rolled-up Argos bag he carried not kept slipping from his lap.
‘It is not convenient that you do not have a car, Mister Rollo.’
Midge, lost in the double negatives, gave a nod and a grin: ‘My idea,’ he said. ‘Taking the bus. Not so conspicuous. Clever, eh?’
Not so much clever, as necessary. A pick-up from the airport and then a drive into town to do the man’s bidding – the first job he’d had for months – and he had screwed up. He didn’t have his car on the road. Hadn’t taxed or insured it and he daren’t drive without, not the number of times he got stopped by the police. For most jobs he got part-payment up front. Always used notes, sealed in a registered envelope…
EXTRACT – THE MAN WHO PLAYED TRAINS
The first review (5-star!) for my new novel compares my writing to Hammond Innes and Robert Ludlum – what more could I ask? The review is on Amazon and Netgalley and also here
The Man Who Played Trains
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 Spargo’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 surprise 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
Playpits Park is available from Waterstones, Amazon, or direct from the publisher Urbane, here