4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A different take on The Great Train Robbery,
This review is from: Signal Red (Paperback)
Although I've most of Robert Ryan's excellent books I didn't rush out to buy this one.The main reason being that as a fan of true crime I'd read so many books about the Great Train Robbery that I couldn't see what Ryan could bring to the table by way of something different.Well he manages it in a couple of ways,firstly by introducing fictitious characters where the identity of those involved isn't known and secondly by concentrating on the story of one of the less well-known robbers,Roy James,getaway driver and up and coming racing driver before several years in prison stunted what appeared to be a very promising career.
Signal red reminded me very much of Jake Arnott's crime novels set in the same era,bent coppers,sleazy tabloid hacks and brutal villains.Thankfully Ryan spares us the "Robin Hood" tale of cheeky chappies having a lark and putting one over on the establishment.The reality as we know now is that many of the robbers were nasty,brutal thugs who battered the innocent senseless on more than one occasion during robberies and Buster Edwards was more Vinnie Jones than Phil Collins.
Writing a book on an event many readers will have a comprehensive knowledge of is a brave thing to do and Robert Ryan pulls it off admirably.While it's a work of fiction it weaves the fictional with the facts seamlessly and is believable and entertaining.Sprinkled liberally throughout the tale are snippets of information about the robbers and the robbery,Roy James nickname and the debate over it for example.
On occasion I got the impression Robert Ryan was enjoying himself planting pet theories into the story,for example
one of the main characters is a used car salesman who runs his business from Warren Street,notorious for it's dodgy motor traders.Reading the autobiography of Bernie Ecclestone reveals that he had a used car business there at that time and it was suggested more than once that he was involved with the Great Train robbery,and in fact knew Roy James.
Great read and probably the descriptions of some of the robbers is more accurate than you'll find in the earlier books about them,the truth is somewhat less pleasant.