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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ". . .the hungry new bugs . . . burrowing out through his eyes and back again, noisily eating his brain."
During World War II card sharp Nicholas Castleford, who is on the run for fraud, ends up on the wrong train, at the wrong time, at the wrong town of Chelmsk, an uncouth town where he discovers the luscious county flower, the blonde Isabella. As foreign troops close in on Chelmski, Isabella learns she may be mutilated by her husband and his friends so that she won't cheat...
Published on 22 Oct. 2012 by Mark Louis Baumgart

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3.0 out of 5 stars Hammer Horror fun
“Imagine there was a supernatural chiller that Hammer Films never made…” This takes that enticing prospect and builds on the conceit brilliantly, with Shane Carter - a screenwriter in 1966 who has been working with Roger Corman - taking on the challenge from Hammer to write a screenplay in five days. What he produces - and we read - is a horror tale set...
Published 9 months ago by Mark West


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ". . .the hungry new bugs . . . burrowing out through his eyes and back again, noisily eating his brain.", 22 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
During World War II card sharp Nicholas Castleford, who is on the run for fraud, ends up on the wrong train, at the wrong time, at the wrong town of Chelmsk, an uncouth town where he discovers the luscious county flower, the blonde Isabella. As foreign troops close in on Chelmski, Isabella learns she may be mutilated by her husband and his friends so that she won't cheat on him, and so that she won't be raped by the advancing foreign troops.

Well, this is the last straw, Isabella decides to decamp the backward Chelmski with the womanizing slick Nick, and in desperation they get on the wrong train, a ghost train called "Arkangel" that only shows up on midnight at Chelmski once per year. And they aren't the only ones, also getting off the wrong train, and then being forced to get on the Hell Train are the unhappily married Thomas and Miranda Wellesly, a pair who will provide stark contrast to Nicholas and Isabella.

Then as the couples realize that they are trapped on the train they can't get off of, the poo does a mighty fine job of hitting the fan as all of the people on the train will be subject to trials that will try their souls from zombies, killer insects, plague, vampires, and (maybe) a personal representative from Satan himself. There is the realization amongst the survivors that the peasants that populate the train may already be dead, and have to relive their damnation over and over again for eternity. This is while the living must bet their souls in a game in which Satan forever wins, all in the hope that maybe this time things will be different.

This is a story within a story within a story. The framing fore-story involves American screenwriter Shane Carter, a screenwriter for Roger Corman's AIP films, who, having gotten himself booted from Corman's productions, is now in England trying to get a screenwriting gig from Hammer in its waning heyday during the late sixties. After getting his interview, he is given the assignment to knock-out a script in three days, and in need of inspiration he picks up an old board game called "Hell Train". Then he comes up with the second story, a young girl in the small village of Chelsk plays a game called "Hell Train", while her mother is out. As she plays the game, the train comes alive and grows and roars off of the board, and after it escapes its confinement, the third story, the one involving Nicholas and Isabella kicks in. It's this episodic story that rocks, and is a proper tribute to Hammer films, and the movie "Horror Express", one of my favorite Hammer films, in particular. Although, for horror movie buffs, there is more than a touch of Amicus Productions to the structure of this novel. All the main characters will have to face their character weaknesses in individual stories, and all may fail, although some just might overcome their failure. I did a lot of speed reading through this part as I just couldn't wait to see what was happening next, it moved like a freight train, and I just couldn't help but wish that somebody would make this part of the novel into a movie.

However, it's the fore-story which I have a problem with. While interesting, it clearly detracts from the better main story, and deserves to be in another novel. Shane and his lover constantly interrupt the Arkangel segments with their story, and it becomes grating as just as the Arkangel arc really starts on its rampage, it is stopped dead, AGAIN, and the Arkangel narrative is destroyed. It's almost like watching a ripping good horror flick, and just as everything starts to rock-and-roll, the movie shuts off and we are forced to watch an excerpt from an unrelated soap opera.

If Fowler had just remained focused on the old-school pulp horror Arkangel story, this would have easily have been a five star novel, but the Shane Carter framing story just detracts from the Arkangel narrative way too much for this Hammer tribute to earn anything more that four stars.

I did like the quote about Christianity ". . . the only lesson he had learned from Christianity was how many slights where remembered and how little was ever forgiven."
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All aboard! All aboard!, 29 Dec. 2011
By 
S. Groves "Stephen Groves" (Loughton Essex England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
All aboard indeed for the latest from Christopher Fowler.Hell Train is like having all the best moments from the Hammer /Amicus films in book form.I don't want to give the plot away but half way through this book there is a chase sequence that had me turning pages almost faster then I could read.I found myself nearly reading this book in one sitting so engrossed had I become with the fates of the chracters and the situations that they found themselves.It even had me rooting for minor characters who's story looked a foregone conclusion.

The story has all the elements you would wish to find in a good chiller,dark atmospheric enviroments, a feeling of unease creeping into the events throughout,well drawn characters you care about ,the right amount of gore without becoming torture porn but adding to the feeling of threat,and don't start me on the Conductor or the other one beginning with B,( I PROMISE NO SPOILERS.)

The story, like the train on which the unsuspecting protagonists board moves along at a cracking pace.This is truely a genuinely thrilling and chilling read .Not to be missed.

Arkangel .let the train bring the pain.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrific Hammer Homage, 5 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
Hell Train starts with an intriguing premise. American screenwriter Shane Carter has left Hollywood and come to the UK during the `swinging sixties', when Hammer Films are at the zenith of their popularity. He is given the opportunity to write a script for the studio. It is the story of the Hell Train, The Arkangel, he writes and this forms the main body of the novel.

I don't want to give away too much plot detail but suffice to say that the four main protagonists fall nicely into the well-established stereotypes you would expect to find in many Hammer films. Just remember that Hell Train is meant as a homage and everything will make perfect sense. There is the innocent wide-eyed female villager, the womanising army deserter, a weak willed vicar and his over-bearing wife. Each character has their own secrets and flaws and these are revealed as the story unfolds. This is where a novel gets the opportunity to excel over the visual medium of film. Readers get a deeper glimpse into the motivations of the characters. We get to learn more of their back story and their reasons for boarding the train the first place.

Interspersed throughout the main narrative we get a few occasional jumps back to Shane as he continues to write. I have to admit the first time this happened I was so engrossed in the goings on aboard the Arkangel this caught me completely off guard. Kudos to Christopher Fowler, I had all but forgotten that this was a story taking place within the confines of another story. It was also an unexpected and pleasant surprise to have the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appear in cameo. The suggestion of their proposed roles in the Hell Train movie was a particularly nice touch.

Hell Train is a visceral love letter to Hammer Films. If you have ever been entranced by any one of Hammer's classic movie outings, then you will adore this novel. Personally the thing I remember most about my exposure to Hammer's films was their constant use of bright vivid colours, especially the bloody reds. There is plenty of that here. It's rare that you read a book that feels like it has successfully captured that feeling in its imagery. Hell Train feels like it has been written in glorious full screen technicolour.

The storytelling in Hell Train perfectly recreates the atmosphere of sixties horror cinema. With reverential nods not just to Hammer, but also to the portmanteau style film making of Amicus, every page contains horrific delights to discover. Characters are dispatched with the manic glee you would find in any one of the films. I'll happily admit that within minutes of finishing reading the book I found myself on the Hammer Films website, keen to refresh my memory of their magnificent output and learn more about their contribution to the British film industry.

I've been waiting to read Hell Train since I first heard about it at the tail end of 2010. Now I can confirm, what I already suspected, that the wait was well worth it. This was a great novel to kick off 2012 with. Christopher Fowler continues to deliver expertly crafted, gripping work. Now all we need to do is convince someone over at Hammer that the film version of Hell Train really needs to be made. We'll get Christopher Fowler to write the script and direct. It'll be great.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge fan, 2 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Hell Train (Kindle Edition)
I love the Bryant and May stories and decided to try this by the same author, I was not disappointed, a nice Gothic horror tale of mystery and suspence. a good read on my kindle.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top notch horror with a nostalgic twist, 2 Jan. 2012
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell Train (Kindle Edition)
Christopher Fowler is perhaps best known for his Bryant and May Detective series so I was a little apprehensive when I discovered that he was writing a horror story for Solaris, not that I doubted that he could do it, but when an author is established in one genre, it is often hard for the reader to adapt to them in another.

That said, I really shouldn't have worried as a lot of the skills utilised in the crime genre translate wonderfully to the horror. As usual with Christopher's writing you have top notch characters, solid prose and of course when added to an illustrious history of British Horror Giant, Hammer, then it's a tales that's as gripping in the bound form as the celluloid was for me growing up.

Add to this, a few magical twists alongside an identifiable authorly voice which will leave the reader in no doubt about what a treat this title is with the odd sleight of hand trick. Cracking.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hammer Horror fun, 24 Jun. 2014
By 
Mark West (Kettering, Northants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
“Imagine there was a supernatural chiller that Hammer Films never made…” This takes that enticing prospect and builds on the conceit brilliantly, with Shane Carter - a screenwriter in 1966 who has been working with Roger Corman - taking on the challenge from Hammer to write a screenplay in five days. What he produces - and we read - is a horror tale set during the First World War. Nicholas is an adventurer, an upper class Englishman who encounters Isabella in a small Eastern European town that is about to fall to enemy soldiers. Along with another English couple, Nicholas, a vicar and his wife Miranda, they board the Arkangel, a terrifying train that might be taking them directly to Hell, alongside a mysterious casket, a veiled Red Countess, an insane army brigadier and worse. Fowler is a great writer and perfectly captures the Hammer mood getting this off to a good start - in 1966 (though I would have liked to have seen more of that time-period) and in Eastern Europe - before the action moves onto the hellish, perfectly realised train. The characterisation is great, with the roles clearly defined, the location and atmosphere is pitch perfect and the gore is cheerfully splashed around (Michael Careeras says, early on, that the screenplays are always more violent to give the censor something to get his teeth into), though the pace (whilst perfect to replicate Hammer) was a bit too slow for me at times. Good fun and - pacing caveat aside - well worth a read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific return to horror, 29 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
Although Mr Fowler is a prolific horror story writer this is his first horror novel in a while and it's a joy! A cleverly framed story within a story it's a celebration of Hammer, with an arguably far cleverer plot than the horror house ever told. A joy. And it's short. Another joy in an age where one struggles to find books under 400 pages!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One-way ticket to Hell!, 29 Feb. 2012
By 
Paul Campbell - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
I've read any number of Fowler's short stories over the years (most of them in a Stephen Jones anthology) but I have to confess, I haven't read one of his novels in a very long time - and if `Hell Train' is anything to go by, I've been sorely missing out!

This is the author's first non Bryant & May mystery novel in over a decade, and it's short, fast and fun. As the rear cover blurb says, imagine there was a supernatural chiller that Hammer Films never made - a grand epic produced at the studio's peak. The framing story sees screenwriter Shane, newly arrived in England from the States, commissioned to write a screenplay in four days. And then we're off! Outside of a few brief visits back to Shane and the folks at Hammer, the rest of the book presents a `novelization' of the screenplay he is supposedly writing: that of four passengers meeting on a train journey through Eastern Europe during the First World War. And it is a journey of trials, a journey which seeks to set them tasks which prey upon each of their weaknesses. And as fitting an affectionate tongue-in-cheek homage to the glory days of British horror movies, there are monsters, blood, bared flesh and lots of screaming. All manipulated by the dark machinations of The Conductor. As Kim Newman says on the front cover this is a "... rattling, roaring yarn!"

Four years ago Fowler published the short story "Arkangel", set in the Polish town of Chelmsk and featuring the same train, town yokels and others found is this present novel. But `Hell Train' it no mere expansion of that original short story, as it is a complete reimagining. Indeed, the tone is entirely differently and reminded me of the giddy pleasure of reading Guy Adams's recent novel `The World House' (2010). Still, I urge the reader to seek out the original short story, which is played straight and dark; unresolved, enigmatic, disquieting. If `Hell Train' is a noisy cheap beer-fuelled party, "Arkangel" is a single malt on a dark, lonely, stormy night. A reprint of it can be readily found in `The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20' (2009) edited by Stephen Jones, whose twenty other great works of short fiction include another terrific train journey story, " `Destination Nihil' by Edmund Bertrand" by Mark Samuels. (Incidentally, volume 19 of Best New Horror also contains another extremely good train story by Fowler, "The Twilight Express".)

As recommended as this novel is, Fowler's short story collections - there are 11 of them! - are even more highly recommended, with his most recent one, `Red Gloves' (2011), nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award.
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5.0 out of 5 stars They don't make 'em like this anymore, 24 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
Fowler's rip-roaring yarn is truly the Hammer film that time (and, sadly, the development executives) forgot, with enough camp to fill Glastonbury Festival, plenty of claret to satisfy the gorehounds, and characters presented in glorious Technicolor. The prose leaps off the page, with rapier-sharp humour (see the description of the Henley housewife's love life) and touching nostalgia (ditto the description of Thorley Walters). Truly a thrill ride!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Horror Express, 1 April 2012
By 
D. Dent "David Dent" (West Dulwich, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hell Train (Paperback)
Not Mr Fowler's best work by a long way. I gave up on reading contemporary horror fiction many years ago and only came to this through a) a love of the British horror film and b) the Bryant and May novels, which are all marvellous. This is a reminder that I was right to leave this genre of fiction alone. On the plus side it's fast paced, and good to spot all of the genre references (Horror Express, anyone?). But the framing device doesn't work, it moves from one set piece to another with little regard for cohesion, and just all felt a bit pointless. Great shame as Fowler's a very talented writer, but he's missed the mark here.
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Hell Train
Hell Train by Christopher Fowler (Paperback - 5 Jan. 2012)
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