Strange Air

Strange AirAvailable now in Kindle and paperback formats.

‘I heaved in a gasp of horror and astonishment. For what I was looking at was no animal; it was no living thing at all. The whiteness was the white of bone, and the bone belonged to a human hand: a skeleton’s hand, glowing in the mist above a slender wrist, all of a piece, functioning together, yet with nothing between each bone. No ligaments, no tendons, no muscle: just air.’

In the mid-19th century, with London grinding to a standstill, civil engineer Thomas Webster Rammell fights to get the city moving again by realising his dream of air-powered trains – so saving his fellow citizens from the unimaginable horrors of an underground network powered by steam. Meanwhile, in the present day, ex-tube driver Eric moves to the airy slopes of Upper Norwood in south London, where he goes walking amid the ruins of the old Crystal Palace. It’s a strange place – desolate, deeply melancholy – and gets stranger still when he’s attacked by a vengeful skeleton, lurking in a buried Victorian railway carriage.

Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway (1864)

Inspired by two true stories, Strange Air interweaves the irresistible tale of one of the Victorians’ most fantastic inventions with the history of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham – that piece de resistance of Victorian endeavour, which graced the airy heights of south London from 1854 until its fiery destruction in 1936. An exhilarating blend of railway history and suburban fairytale, the novel reveals how close one man came to changing the history of London’s public transport – and exposes the truth behind the tragic demise of the once-mighty ‘people’s Palace’.

  1. Oops sorry Tom looks like you had it covered anyway. I’ve got very excited over this topic recently. In March earlier this year my thoughts turned again to the tunnel which as I’ve said I remember it being found and saw the roof in the ditch just outside the One O’clock Club kids nursery. Anyhow I saw the wiki piece and when I read that the tunnel had never been found I entered a badly written piece sating it had. Anyhow a month or so later the wiki editors had removed it. This stirred me up to write again and complain leaving my email address and a chap actually contacted me the next day . He is wildly enthusiastic about the story after seeing a story about it on BBC Nationwide in the seventies . Now it would be interesting to know if the Nationwide story was after the woman claimed to have found the tunnel or before thus influencing and weakening her story.

    Anyhow late now and I have to be up for work in the morning.

    By the way I found you searching the web as I too am researching Rammel to see if there was an incident that would have caused an economic disaster for him and his investors at the time he was hoping to push for a propulsion system to carry passengers under the streets of London. All possibly fanciful but fascinating stuff.

    All the best Lawrence Jenkins

    • Hi Lawrence,

      Thanks for your comment, and also your email. As is obvious, I totally share your enthusiasm for the story of Rammell and his Crystal Palace trial – and in particularly, the myth(?) of the skeletons in the buried carriage. It was after hearing of the latter, indeed, that I started piecing together Rammell’s story, and also the strange efforts at excavation under the mysterious Marquis de St. Empire. One of the joys of whole saga has been the difficulty of finding concrete evidence about the different elements – a rare pleasure, in this era of transparency and information overload!

      For the record, my novel is directly inspired by the story of Pamela Goodsell, the 19 year old woman who ‘fell down the hole’ in 1978, though many of the particulars have been changed to make things even more dramatic! The book interweaves that storyline with the tale of Rammell’s various railway experiments leading up to – and beyond – the Crystal Palace trial. It’s fair to say that that side of the book is rather more historically accurate than the other, though I like to think that one day, someone else will trip upon the skeletons in the park and vindicate Ms. Goodsell’s story…

      You can buy the novel by clicking the link below – it’s available in both Kindle and paperback forms.

      Do please stay in touch and let me know if you find anything else out about Rammell, the Marquis or indeed the skeletons themselves… 😉

      All the best,

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