‘The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon’ Review

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.

Steam Train leaving Roma Street Station Brisbane 1947

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?

Camp Mountain Derailed Train Carriages 1947 Image No: 102648 Courtesy State Library of Queensland

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.

Toby leaned forward. He spoke slowly to Alex. “I’m not lying” he emphasised each word.
“Just before Jimmy vanished, I heard an old steam train.”
Toby wants to get Jimmy back. He plans on saving him.

The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon by Jack Roney

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

Author Bio

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/#/

Further Info

Books https://hawkeyebooks.com.au/

Survivor’s story https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-26/qld-rail-disaster-camp-mountain-labour-day-1947/100719314

Photographs https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/blog/camp-mountain-train-disaster

Statements http://qldstatearchives.shorthand.com/campmountain/

Reviews for The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022


“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”

Quick Stories #2 Final Frontier

Scientific device © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write whenever I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words. For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Space.

Final Frontier

Fran ripped off the velcro strap so violently it took a tuft of her hair with it.

She dropped the VR headset onto the work bench and almost tapped the flashing message on her wrist screen before remembering she was no longer authorised to communicate.

Tord’s on-screen decree was absolute: Shutdown.

She was back in the real world, a contemporary world with little social consciousness, running on limitless personal greed, and no respect for history.

Money flowed through unnamed corporations with anonymous board members and spies controlled by the malignant régime of vigilante ruler, Tord, who leeched the economy of countries world-wide and left billions starving.

Fran spent two claustrophobic years in this grey-walled bunker recreating virtual realities of those countries before the takeover, demonstrating to Tord how nature was exhausted; Earth could no longer be sustained.     

Now those desperate years of work would be erased.

Fran spoke to her roving virtual assistant, a small round device, and issued one command; one irreversible command.

The VA argued with her but Fran was adamant.

“Erase internal and external data and activate equipment meltdown.”

She patted her agitated assistant and suppressed a pang of guilt at the VAs inevitable termination.

“Sorry, Beep.”

Fran unlocked a drawer and seized a new prototype, a machine gun-shaped molecular transporter, just as the security door crashed open.   

“Tord’s here! What are we going to…?”  The voice stopped.

Fran swung around to face her colleague Angelo.  “It’s your day off, Ang, forget about work.”

His eyes grew dark as he walked slowly towards her, arm slightly raised, ready to grab the glowing transporter.

“Please don’t do it, Fran.”                 

She moved back, but he lunged and grabbed the end of the device.

At that moment a thickset man strode through the open laboratory doorway.

“Stop, you idiots!” Tord bellowed. “That biomolecular thing is worth millions!”

His bodyguards shouted but as Tord stepped closer, he tripped.

Tord staggered forward and grabbed Angelo’s arm and Fran’s hand.  She was holding the transporter in a vice-like grip and Tord’s added pressure activated the transference trigger.

The air hummed and vibrated around them, turning everything blue then blindingly white.  Their mouths gasped for air as they travelled through time and space.

Steadily their senses cleared and Angelo discovered what had tripped Tord.

It was Beep, and the VAs Echidna mode had been activated.  It didn’t take long for Tord to start shrieking.  Metal spines were embedded in his ankle, rapidly injecting Quill-Still.  He would be asleep in seconds.

“Good,” thought Fran, as he sank to the ground unconscious.         

All they could see stretched out around them was a vast, empty desert of ochre dust.  The sun was high and the temperature melted the horizon.

Angelo shaded his eyes.  “Looks like 2041 to me.”

“I didn’t manage to set coordinates,” sighed Fran.

She handed him the transporter, removed her lab coat, and carefully rolled an exhausted Beep into the pocket.

Angelo tapped the screen.  “Reset to last week; Tord never visited, body never found.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Backlog and Being ‘Beswitched’

Every reader has book backlog.  If we didn’t, there would be no such thing as the TBR, or stacks of unread ARCs, neither shelves groaning with books nor e-readers crammed with downloads.  My bedside table is piled high with enticing yet unread novels and, well, you get the idea.  You have book backlog, too.

There are so many excellent books in the world that I know I will never catch up—so I’m being choosy and will read what I want, when I want.  And taking the sinful route of skipping pages if it’s not up to scratch.

My reading material may not be literary, it may not be controversial, it may not be popular, it may not be the latest or greatest, however, it will be a book I’m interested in from cover-to-cover.  An occasional blog post is sure to come out of it, no matter how fluffy or deep the content.

‘Okay, okay, enough!’ I hear you cry.  ‘When does time travel come into this?’

Beswitched by Kate Saunders 01“A ripping English boarding-school story with a perceptive heroine and time-travel twist guaranteed to appeal to modern schoolgirls.”—Kirkus Reviews

is the kind of story which I would have loved when I was a girl.  Well paced and absorbing, it is eerily accurate of all those Famous Five and Girls Own Annual stories I read yonks ago.  Saunders tight writing style easily pulled me into the dilemma which rather spoilt young schoolgirl Flora Fox finds herself, viz, she gets fobbed off to boarding school and never arrives.

Actually she does arrive, but she’s zapped back in time.  Instead of luxurious Penrice Hall, she arrives at St Winifred’s in pre-war 1935 where all the ‘gels’ are ever-so-British-upper-class, the underwear is scratchy and the food is awful.

As you can imagine this is a personal growth tale, cut through with humorous chronological comparisons, nightmare teachers, ripping seaside hols, scary bonding adventures and a neat twist to the enlightening finale.  Jolly. Good. Fun.

I won’t go into the logistics of time travel but suffice to say the elements meld together well.  Recommended for 8 to 12 year olds, although anybody can read it for a look at life when steely friendships were forged by facing boarding school adversity together.

My kidlit rating soars above five stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Kate Saunders Author
Kate Saunders won the Costa Children’s Book Award for ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ published 2014. Photo by Clara Molden. Review https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kate-saunders/beswitched/

The Thirteenth Doctor

Doctor Who number thirteen is Jodie Whittaker.  After media speculation and BBC misdirection for several years, the first female Doctor has been revealed.  The newly appointed Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, has been quoted as saying:

Jodie Whittaker Dr Who
Doctor Who

“To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in this legendary role.”

Note:  The series “Doctor Who” is a British time-travelling science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963.

Quote:  Rolling Stone magazine Monday 17 July 2017 : Photo BBC

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Dr Who Daleks
Ice-Cream Lamingtons