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Signal Red by Robert Ryan

Signal Red by Robert Ryan is a fictionalized account of the real Great Train Robbery that took place in England in 1963. The book jumps between two time periods, the 1992 and 1963/4. The author used real names and places but added his own fictionalized version to some of the events. We read the story from the viewpoint of a couple of the robbers and from one of the policemen investigating the crime. The author plunged us right into the action and made us feel part of the adventure as he used the jargon and slang of London. I actually found myself rooting for the thieves as I got involved with their meticulous plans. Yet, I also felt for the police as they worked at piecing together the evidence. It is obvious that the author dived head first into the research and explored every nook and cranny in order to put together a detailed, nail-biting narrative.

This robbery was so spectacular that it not only inspired a number of books and movies, but it also popped up in a load of references. John Lennon mentioned it in his movie Help. You can find it in video games, an Agatha Christie mystery, and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, Starlight Express. Even the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford, Aberdeenshire in Scotland had a temporary display of the miniature train scene of the robbery, borrowed from the Luton Model Railway Club.