By day, Newshub’s Angus Gillies is a mild-mannered, smoothie-guzzling news producer. But his alter ego is as the author of violent and hard-boiled crime fiction. His short novels Just Breathe and Boom and Bust reveal Auckland’s underbelly, as does his latest book, Good Cop, Bad Cop.
Where does a part-time, wannabe crime writer look for inspiration? In my case, not far at all. I have a hair-trigger temper and once it’s tripped there’s a 10-second window when anything is possible. It’s got me in trouble over the years, mostly while playing football (the opponent pushes me a second time and the next thing he’s on the ground and my knuckles are bleeding), but also at work (“Take it to the car park!” became a catch-cry at TV3 after Clint Brown and I decided to take our newsroom argument there one day, although we cooled down in the lift and only ended up sharing a cigarette and a laugh).
But my only crimes, technically anyway, were as a teenage dabbler in the Gisborne drug scene. There were the times I snuck into a few gardens at night to snap off San Pedro cactus arms to boil down into the thick green juice that got you fucked up. A reporter friend of mine, Billy Dixon, wrote about the missing cacti for the front page of the Gisborne Herald. My father was the editor at the time and the headline was POLICE HUNT FOR MACHETE-WIELDING DRUG FIENDS. I thought that was pretty funny.
Growing up in Gisborne, I always seemed to attract violence. Probably a bit too much swagger in my walk. Once I sparked an all-in brawl at the Tatapouri pub by pouring a jug of beer over the head of a mate, who’d just become the youngest fishing boat captain in New Zealand. His crew jumped up, I was thrown to the ground, and as mayhem erupted all around me, I quietly crawled away through the kicking feet, falling bodies and flying beer.
Another time, after the movies, a bikie took offence to me and my friends throwing our leftover Tangy Fruits over some flats above the shops on the opposite side of the main street. The bikie and I started fighting and I thought I had him until he began bashing the back of my head against the road while his girlfriend repeatedly toe-hacked me in the face with her pointy-toed shoes. I’ll always be grateful to my mate Steve for restraining her and for a group of Māori guys who ran over and dragged the bikie off me.
I got to repay Steve the favour. We were trapped in an ongoing feud with a couple of muscle-bound hoons. I’ll come in at about chapter four of the saga when one night, as we were walking home from the pub, they ran after us and tried to get us to fight them in a gravelly car sales yard. I was able to stall my guy by telling him I could hear police sirens coming, but Steve’s guy had him by the hair and was repeatedly smashing his face into the gravel.
As I talked to my guy I sneakily ripped a big hole in the chip-wrapper and when he eventually lunged and threw a punch I ducked and came back up, rubbing the hot, salty chips in his eyes. He fell back screaming and I ran over, pulled Steve’s guy off him, helped Steve up and we sprinted the five minutes back to his house, where I picked all the gravel out from under his eyelids.
About six months later I was driving Steve and our mate Devo down a quiet country road, looking for a party. We drove past some guys parked at the side of the road having a leak. There was no party, so when we got to the end of the road I turned around and came back and the guys who’d been having a leak waved us down. I thought they must need a push so I pulled over and as they ran across the road I wound down my window.
A fist came through and smashed into my face, breaking my nose.
Then the guy said, “Why’d you have your lights on full beam, cunt!”
independent journalism happen!Find Out More
Then he said, “Hey, you’re that prick who rubbed his hot chips in my face!”
As his mate – the one who’d gravelled Steve’s eyes – tried to open Devo’s passenger door, I fired up Mum’s old yellow Cortina, slammed it into second and hit the accelerator, dragging them after us for a few metres. The next thing we know they’re chasing us in their car and I’ve got my foot down with my lights off so they can’t see us. As we’re rounding the big bend heading to The Jolly Stockman Pub the car runs out of petrol… and we have to push it the last hundred metres. Luckily, our attackers had given up the chase by then.
My attacker later killed someone in a Saturday night scrap and went to prison for a long time.
Good Cop, Bad Cop (Rogue Monster Press, $12) by Angus Gillies and Thomas Mitchell under the pen name Gus Mitchell is available on Amazon, or you can buy direct by emailing Angus at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.