Nicky Hager is launching his latest book tonight at Unity Books in Wellington. No one knows what it’s called or what it’s about; join us as our correspondents keep a close eye on the author and the bookshop throughout the day.
7:37am: Nicky Hager is awake, and has walked into his kitchen for breakfast. He toasts a slice of what seems to be gluten-free bread, and boils the kettle. He looks out the window. It’s raining. So far no clues as to what his book is about.
8:48am: Major developments in the past hour or so include a sighting of a ghostly silhouette through a frosted window. The motions suggested Hager was brushing his teeth. So far no clues as to what his book is about.
9:08am: Hager has left the house and is walking down the street.
9:10am: Jesus! A blue Holden Commodore pulls up outside Hager’s house, and three men get out of the car and go around the back of Hager’s property. The car drives off.
9:13am: Hager is walking back to his house!
9:15am: The three men run around to the front of Hager’s house. One of them is clutching what appears to be a rubbish bag. The Holden pulls up and the men jump in and take off. Hager seems deep in thought and doesn’t appear to have noticed the commotion – or the robbery.
10:13am: Meanwhile, business as usual at Unity Books in Willis St. A man has fallen asleep in modern fiction, and Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young has been rushing out the door.
11:12am: The man in modern fiction has woken up.
11:28am: Our surveillance team at Hager’s house reports that he has spent the last hour landing heavy blows on a punching bag in the garage. So far no clues as to what his book is about.
12:27pm: Hager cooks himself a steak with fried eggs and coleslaw.
12:36pm: Hager has polished off the steak, and now has his feet up on the couch. He cracks open a can of Foster’s and navigates his My Sky to bring up last night’s episode of The Bachelor.
1:05pm: Hager seems upset with the new bachelor. “Stop your fucken inane laughter!”, he yells at the TV.
1:24pm: A LARGE SHIPMENT OF BOXES ARRIVES AT UNITY BOOKS IN WILLIS ST.
1:35pm: The large shipment of boxes turns out to contain more copies of Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young.
2:01pm: Breaking news at the New Zealand Herald by David Fisher (who knows Nicky Hager), Eileen Goodwin of the ODT and Nicholas Jones: “National MP Todd Barclay refused to cooperate with detectives carrying out an investigation into allegations he had secretly recorded staff in his electorate office, according to documents released from the official police investigation.
“Instead, Barclay did not return phone messages left for him by lead detective on the inquiry and had a lawyer contact police to say he would not be making a statement.”
So far no clues as to what Nicky Hager’s book is about, though.
2:29pm: Nicky Hager has spent the past hour in his back garden. He has planted broad beans, potatoes, red cabbage, and bok choy, and applied liberal amounts of compost. Interestingly, he doesn’t wear gloves.
2:39pm: THE BEER FOR THE LAUNCH HAS ARRIVED AT UNITY BOOKS IN WILLIS ST. It’s Moa.
2:44pm: THE RUN-SHEET FOR TONIGHT’S LAUNCH IS REVEALED. Launch: 5pm. Speeches 5.15pm. Press conference 5.40pm. The books arrive in the store only when the launch speeches commence; that’s the first time anyone outside of Hager and a small circle knows the title and price. Select media will be given copies at the press conference.
3:24pm: The weather in Wellington today is warm, with a gentle breeze.
4:03pm: With less than an hour to the launch, Hager is chilling as he reads promoted content, laughing at Side-Splitting Plane Photos That Will Make You Giggle, and furrowing his brows as he inspects Itching This Part Of Your Body Is A Sign of Alzheimer’s.
4:17pm: Kim Dotcom is seen on Willis St.
4.20pm: Plates of tzatziki dip arrive at Unity Books.
4.21pm: Hager leaves his house.
4.24pm: John Key is seen on Willis St.
4:35pm: Unity Books is heaving, standing room only.
4.41pm: The tension in the store is so thick you could give it a job in cabinet.
4:44pm: Mel B from the Spice Girls files for divorce.
4:47pm: Nicky Hager is seen on Willis St.
4:50pm: The heaving crowd at Unity includes Martyn Bradbury and Giovanni Tiso.
4:54pm: The staff are still deciding whether to open the bar.
4:55pm: The bar is open! There is a polite stampede.
4:56pm: Some jackass is standing on a chair taking photos.
4:57pm: Punters are comparing how many Nicky Hager books they have read.
4:58pm: Finger food consists of slices of pineapple, apricot and salami.
4:59pm: Susie Ferguson from Radio New Zealand is in the crowd.
5:00pm: Unity Books is being described as “uncomfortably full”.
5:01pm: It’s getting fuller.
5:02pm: And fuller!
5:03pm: It can’t get more full.
5:04pm: It will have to get more full because Nicky Hager hasn’t arrived yet, mind you he doesn’t take up a lot of room.
5:09pm: The very start of the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain suddenly blared out and everyone thought that meant Hager was in the house but it wasn’t, it was just a random burst of music.
5:11pm: The speeches are due to begin in four minutes.
5:12pm: There is a thicket of journalists.
5:13pm: HAGER! No; it’s political journalist Lloyd Burr, testing the microphones. The crowd give him a round of applause.
5:15pm: HAGER! For real!
5:16pm: He is carrying a box of books.
5:17pm: Publisher Robbie Burton speaks, reveals there is a co-author – investigative journalist Jon Stephenson.
5:17pm: The book is called Hit and Run.
5:18pm: The subtitle is, The NZ SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour.
5:19pm: Hager says, “For the past two years Jon and I have been uncovering a dark and guilty secret.” They were approached by defence people who were disturbed about a “cover-up” of what they claimed were “war crimes”.
5:20pm: It covers what happened after the roadside bomb attack in Bamiyan; Hager claims New Zealand put the alleged perpetrators on a secret US “kill list”.
Defence called John Key, briefed him on the operation, and he gave it the green light, says Hager.
5:22pm: Gasps in the audience.
5:24pm: Hager claims the plan went awry. The fighters escaped into the mountains, leaving women and children in the village attacked by the SAS. Six people were killed, including a young school teacher, and a little girl called Fatima who died in her mother’s arms.
He says the SAS burned or blew up a dozen houses, which served no military purpose, and left without helping the injured.
5:25pm: Hager claims there was a second raid when the villagers started rebuilding their houses.
5:29pm: He says an insurgent was taken prisoner, and that the SAS received information about what the man said when he was tortured.
5:33pm: Hager winds up his speech.
5:36pm: Applause, and punters go back to the bar for another Moa.
5:38pm: The beer has run out.
5:39pm: The crowd begin to thin.
5:41pm: There’s no one left in the store.
5:42pm: Unity supremo Tilly Lloyd begins turning off the lights.
5:46pm: “This is too big for the country to ignore!”, says Hager. “Oh, I didn’t know you were still here,” says Tilly, and they finish off the last of the pineapple and salami in the dark gloom of Unity Books on Willis St.