From Phone-Hacking Crime Scene To Debut Novel, guest post from @nickripp, author of Crossing the Whitewash

Mystery Thriller Week concludes with a guest post from Nick Rippington, author of Crossing the Whitewash

FROM PHONE-HACKING CRIME SCENE TO DEBUT NOVEL

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AS I entered the gloomy car park on wasteland in the heart of East London’s docklands I felt an eerie chill spread through me. I wasn’t sure how I would recognise my contact: no arrangements had been made for flowers to be worn in buttonholes or a copy of that day’s Sun to be carried with the masthead facing forward.

I looked furtively around. The cry of a gull made me jump reflexively. In the shadows in a particularly dark area of the complex I thought I saw a figure and was ready to turn tail and run when the bronchial cough of a car engine ripped through the stillness of the evening air.

Twisting, I saw a familiar face come into view from between the parked cars, a black bin liner swinging carelessly at the new arrival’s side. It was Jonesy. When he reached me he held out a hand, as if presenting me with the ill-gotten gains from a multi-million pound bullion hoist or the evidence that would expose corruption on a grand scale among the powers-that-be in Welsh sport. “Here you go, Rippers,” my soon-to-be-ex colleague announced, using my well-worn alias. “I’ve emptied your drawer and it’s all in here.”

I opened the bag and scanned the array of defunct pens, paperclips, scrawled notes and unused desk calendars. Somewhere in there would be vital information my rivals would pay top dollar to get their hands on – the scrawled draft of my fantasy football team. This was goodbye and I knew I could never return to the scene of the crime: The News of the World offices in Wapping.

Inside the building, specially trained police officers were probing the contents of our computers, searching for the smoking gun that would seal the guilt of those accused of hacking celebrities phones in order to elicit stories. I had only worked there for two years – starting my dream job long after the alleged crimes had been committed. I hadn’t even had time to enrole on the phone-hacking courses I guess must have been popular inside 3 Thomas More Square.

I was the Welsh sports editor at the News of The World and on the fateful day Rupert Murdoch announced he would be closing down Europe’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper I was spending a hard-earned holiday at home with my wife Liz and our one-year-old baby daughter Olivia.

With the world of newspapers shrinking at a rate of knots it occurred to me it might not be possible to stay in my chosen career. I was getting on a bit and the bright, shiny online world was the realm of budding young go-getters straight out of Uni. Brought up on clickbait, rather than going in search of need-to-know hard news stories they would be scanning Facebook and Twitter to re-post pictures of skateboarding dogs and dancing cats because, allegedly, that is the sort of ‘news’ people want these days.

I examined my alternatives. I’d heard plumbers made good money, but I couldn’t tell the difference between my U-bends and my Backflow preventers. Bus Driver? Ambulance Man? I realised I was running through the verses of that old Clash favourite Career Opportunities in the vain hope a light bulb would ignite in my brain.

For over 30 years all I had done was handle words: Write stories, correct reports, pen catchy headlines and design pages. Newspapers had been my life, and I couldn’t contemplate an existence without them.

Then came the Rugby World Cup in Australia and a glimmer of an idea flickered. Having honed my skills across the Severn Bridge I knew how big a deal this tournament would be in Wales. And having worked in London, I knew how the majority of hard-bitten hacks in the capital – many claiming to be born within earshot of Bow Bells – felt about it.

“Rugby? You’re ‘aving a giraffe mate. Only you Welsh care about that malarkey. It’s all about the Premier League up here, boyo.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t even Welsh but Bristolian. I didn’t want to crush their illusions.

It got me thinking, though. What would happen if one of these cockney geezers, brought up on jellied eels, Chaz ‘n Dave, Del Boy and West ‘aaaam, found himself plying his trade in Taff territory, perhaps at a newspaper like Wales on Sunday, where I had first cut my teeth as a sports editor and, later, assistant editor?

The idea was the spark which now, four years later, has led to me publish my first novel Crossing The Whitewash, a thriller which pitches gangland London against rugby-crazy Wales in the build up to one of the sporting world’s biggest events.

The novel is available now in digital, paperback and audio format. I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to hold a physical copy of your book in your hands.

I timed its release perfectly to coincide with the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK and used that to help give it a publicity kick start with interviews in national and local papers, on website and on the radio.

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Crossing The Whitewash

Nick Rippington

You can leave the gang, but sometimes the gang won’t leave you Talented footballer Gary Marshall and his best mate Arnie Dolan are members of the Boxer Boys, a gang of boys from a rundown London council estate who fight adversity both on the streets and closer to home. Then a series of shattering events tear them apart. Eight years later Arnie is desperate to catch up with his former partner-in-crime, but Gary has disappeared. Where is he? And why is he so keen to let the past stay in the past? In a shocking finale all the secrets are about to come tumbling out…

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About the Author

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AWARD-WINNING author Nick Rippington wrote his debut novel, the Urban gangland thriller Crossing The Whitewash, in response to becoming a silent victim of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. As Welsh Sports Editor on Europe’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper he was informed at 48-hours notice that it was closing, and had to collect the contents of his desk from a colleague in a car park in London’s docklands. Publishing the book in August 2015, it was recently given an honorable mention in the genre category of the 2016 self-published eBook Awards competition run by prestigious American magazine Writer’s Digest. The judges described it as “evocative, unique, unfailingly precise and often humorous”. Nick lives with wife Liz in London and has two daughters, Olivia and Jemma.

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