Reaper of Souls

A Novel of the 1957 Kendal Crash

Reaper of SoulsOn 1 September, 1957, an excursion train left Montego Bay on its return trip to Kingston and met disaster halfway there. Dangerously overcrowded, it had rushed down towards Jamaica’s central plains on its way back to the capital. Sometime after midnight, in wet conditions, the train derailed near Kendal, Manchester, creating a horrific tangle of wood, glass, steel and torn bodies. Of the 254 lives lost, 14, nearly 6 percent of the dead, were members of Beverley East’s family.

The Kendal Crash is still the worst nightmare of Jamaicans’ living memory. It is an event that sits roughly midway in Jamaica’s 20th century, between its age of innocence and its era of Independence. In this work of fiction, East claims power over what had eluded her for so long: the truth about Kendal and a sense of closure in the face of so much grief for one family. By mining this herstory, she has used personal tragedy to fashion characters who struggle to find meaning and purpose in the depths of national despair.


Press and Praise for Reaper of Souls

Kindling Kendal Memories, Reaper of Souls’ launched on crash anniversary, Jamaica Gleaner
September 2007

“Beverley East has put her heart and soul into this gripping family saga that shuttles between the past and present with the locomotive power of a speeding train. With terminal points in England and Jamaica, Reaper of Souls is a tumultuous journey teeming with characters who will live with you in memory for a very long time.”

— Colin Channer, author of Waiting In Vain, Passing Through, and The Girl With the Golden Shoes

“Beverley East honors the lives of all those impacted by the devastating tragedy of the Kendal train crash of 1957 in Jamaica. She uncovers secrets that surprise her and will surely surprise her readers. A brave and important work.”

— Elizabeth Nunez, award-winning author of Bruised Hibiscus and Prospero’s Daughter

“Like many other history-making events in the life of Jamaicans, the story of the Kendal Crash was only whispered like some mysterious duppy (ghost) story until Bev East courageously used her family’s tragic experience as grist for this touching and riveting story…”

— Barbara Ellington, The Daily Gleaner



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