Spark Out

Big Mo nodded his head slowly, his eyes rolling. “That’s right, Shooter, me old mucka,” he said. “You’ve finally got it... have a gold star.” He gave a mirthless chuckle, pausing before delivering the punch line with perfect comic timing. “Strange, though, because the way you’ve been acting I can only assume you believe my head buttons up the back.”
Everything was still, silent for a moment, the only sound that of laboured snorts coming from the prisoner, who was trying to clear the blood from his airwaves.
“Wh... what sh’you mean?” Shooter stuttered eventually.
“Ripping me off,” said Mo. “I know what you took away from that Holland Park raid. You owe me a lot more – a couple of grand, I reckon – and it’s a bloody cheek you’ve held out on me after I tipped you off to the opportunity. Don’t you know there’s a recession on? I got a wife and kid to feed, with another on the way. I’m sorry Shooter, truly. You always seemed a loyal soldier and a good mate, but now I’ve got to make an example of you. I can’t afford people thinking I’m a soft touch. Seems no one can be trusted these days. Handsome? Keep hold of him. Cozza, get Reg, would you?”
“Oh shit. No!” pleaded Shooter. “Not Reg. Look, I’ll make it up to you. Pay you extra, if that’s what you want. Do another job especially for you. It wasn’t on purpose, honest, I’d never do that to you, Mo, you know that. I must have miscalculated is all I can think. I’ve always been useless at maths...”
Chuck let out a whimper. He didn’t know what it was all about but he didn’t like seeing his daddy so cross. Big Mo looked at him and winked as if to say, “It’s all right son, none of this is real”. Chuck told himself what he was seeing was a magic trick, the red stuff on Shooter’s face not blood but tomato sauce, like he had at home on his chips.

HOURS later Chuck was in bed, crying himself to sleep. Big Mo told his wife the youngster was overtired. They had popped into the pub after their ‘bit of business’, just to take the edge off things, and Chuck had fallen asleep. Beryl Dolan looked at her husband.
“You’ve made him a part of it, haven’t you?” she said. “I asked you, even begged you, but you couldn’t help it. You had to ‘toughen him up’. I can only guess what you’ve been up to. You took that... thing... with you. I can see the blood. There’s a stain on my carpet and a trail on the tiles in the hall.”
Big Mo looked out from beneath his thick, black, caterpillar eyebrows, pushing his hand wearily through the bristles on his head. He didn’t feel like justifying his actions. It had been a long day. He had done what he had done, and in his mind he had made the right call. A row with the missus was the last thing he needed.
Lifting himself from his favourite armchair, Mo reached over and switched on the television, turning up the volume to dissuade his wife from carrying on with the conversation. A well-dressed man was standing in front of a weather map pointing at various areas of the country, but Mo wasn’t interested.
Bending down slowly, he picked up the three-foot length of wood he had propped beside him on the sofa. Noting the dark stains for the first time, he vowed to rub it down with a hot, damp cloth in the morning to get rid of any ‘evidence’. Shame. To his way of thinking it just added to the character, like when you had a champion conker as a kid and the more messed up it looked, the more scars it had, the more you knew it had done its job. Walking out through the sliding glass-partition doors, he swung the sawn-off curtain pole at his side, the spherical ball on the end reflecting the light. Resting it gently against the wall in the corner of the small parlour room, he patted it affectionately.
“Night, Reg,” he said.

ONE A GANGSTER, THE OTHER IS A SOLDIER... WAR IS ABOUT TO CHANGE TWO BROTHERS LIVES FOREVER Spark Out is a UK gangland suspense thriller that is not for the faint hearted. A dark tale full of twists and turns it focuses on career criminal and wannabe armed robber Maurice 'Big Mo' Dolan, who lives with his wife Beryl and two kids, Chuck, aged 8, and Sly, 4, on a rundown high-rise estate in London. Big Mo is prone to headaches and believes there is one main cause: family. He believes Chuck needs toughening up, his Beryl is too lenient and his career-criminal father Billy 'The Kid' Dolan has no respect for him. To make matters worse in Mo's mind, his younger brother Clive is joining the army. Mo sees light at the end of the tunnel, though. With Margaret Thatcher’s government backing people who show initiative and get ‘on their bikes’ to find work, Mo believes it is the perfect time for him to expand his business... into armed robbery. As he plans the ultimate raid to drag him out of the poverty trap, he believes his fortunes are bound to get better... then Clive is called off to fight in the Falklands War and everything becomes a whole lot worse. Spark out, the second book in the Boxer Boys series, will be released in July this year. A prequel to Crossing The Whitewash, the novel is set in 1982 as Britain comes to terms with a Thatcher government and the prospect of war in the south Atlantic. The book handles some big issues like domestic abuse as well as Post Traumatic stress disorder and builds to a thundering climax.

Nick Rippington wrote his debut novel, the urban gangland thriller Crossing The Whitewash, in the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

5-star reviews on

Spark Out skillfully guides readers through the down-and-out months of Maurice "Mo" Dolan, Mo's immediate and extended family, and the climate and culture unfolding under the new leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1981. Fluidly moving the narrative between Mo's violent public outbursts, his abusive marriage and parenting decisions, his criminal peers and actions, and the reality of Mo's brother's military service in the Falklands, Nick Rippington creates characters so visual and compelling that readers do not know whether to grimace at Mo's direct and collateral damage, or to invest deeper into the story exploding around him.
Before readers even realize it, the toxic love story of Mo and Beryl emerges from the flames of Mo's temper and its initial sparks into London, blowing its destruction into a world that is both small and large in its reflection, spread of violence, unforgiving wrath, and the human need for partners in war, work, and love—no matter the cost.
- Catherine Cottle

A Really impressive read
Given that this style and story line is not my usual go-to, I was especially impressed with the quality, detail descriptions, and intriguing plot throughout the entire book. And it's a good long book too, a lot of return for the money, so you'll be engrossed for many hours and/or days depending on your reading style. Fast paced, lots of twists and turns, and well set scenes to keep you guessing! I'll be looking out for volume 3 in the future.
- Laurie Bonser