Best birthday present ever! And a great read for Halloween! After reading the draft manuscript of Jack Roney’s novel The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon on behalf of Carolyn Martinez of Hawkeye Publishing, I rated it highly in my appraisal.
Unfortunately life got in the way and I was unable to follow the progress of the book. The good news is obvious, Hawkeye Publishing accepted it for publication, my family gifted a copy to me, and here it is!
First, I wanted to learn more about the factual event the book is based on and delved into it online. The story relates to a real train crash on the Brisbane to Closeburn line on Monday 5th May 1947, a public holiday for Labour Day, and dubbed the Camp Mountain Train Crash. It proved to be the worst disaster in Queensland’s rail history.
In the prologue, author Jack Roney depicts what happened on that fateful train trip from Brisbane to Closeburn; a special picnic day for families and friends, a journey which ended in tragedy with a catastrophic derailing. Many lives were lost or changed forever.
However, there is one big difference in this story
After the train crash decades later in May 1982, a Labour Day holiday, best mates Toby, Dan and Jimmy join their Grade 7 Samford State School class early in the morning to watch the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse. Afterwards they go exploring in the old Yugar Tunnel, scaring bats and being scared. Someone or something is watching them from the trees. The three boys go into the dark tunnel… bats… fire and smoke… and depart thoroughly spooked.
After the tunnel adventure, the boys cycle to the ghost train site along a road where the train tracks once ran… hear train whistle… steam train engine… Jimmy disappears… of course, young Toby does not know or understand where his friend has actually gone. Dan is very upset. Toby’s life turns into a living nightmare because nobody believes him, and the police are sceptical when he says “Jimmy just vanished”.
Decades later, enter adult Toby, a 2017 jetsetting travel writer returning from a far-flung country. Roney does an excellent job of describing Toby’s extensive research to find Jimmy (which gets more and more desperate) to discover how and why his friend disappeared. He wants to believe his missing pal is still alive. He must be out there! Cue research into time-slip, time travel, portal, wormhole, lunar eclipse, tear in the fabric of space, super blue blood moon (a lunar eclipse coupled with a second full moon in one month) but is a return possible after such a crash?
Previously, without warning, the other friend Dan, now an adult, has gone missing under mysterious circumstances and his wife is distraught. From tax avoidance to suicide, Toby runs through the possible yet unlikely options.
Find out what Toby discovers. The clues are there. There are three time zones set in 1947, 1982 and 2017 for each lunar phenomena. Toby widens his research to make some sense of the disappearances with unexpected help from his landlady Mrs Doherty.
There is strong urban geography throughout, and I am sure teenage readers and speculative fiction fans would happily discuss conflicting emotions and plot nuances. Roney’s tweaks and turnarounds are clever and I went back once to see how the past fitted in with the present. The final twist is unexpected!
Written in four parts with chapter illustrations, The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon is a vividly realised adventure story which invokes a strong sense of friendship, keeping an open mind, and never giving up.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Jack Roney is a former detective and author of the crime thriller series The Angels Wept, The Demons Woke and The Shadows Watch. He is a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and Australian Crime Writers Association. His writing is inspired by over 30 years in law enforcement where he gained experience in general policing, criminal investigation, strategic policy, media and communications and also as an operational skills/firearms and police academy instructor. He draws on his experience to bring authenticity and realism to his writing. https://www.jackroney.com.au/#/
“This book is dedicated to the victims of the Camp Mountain train crash, the heroes who came to their aid, and the survivors whose lives were changed forever by the tragic events of 5th May 1947. May you never be forgotten”