First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Nick Rippington, and Cabrilon Books for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.
In my first experience with a Rippington piece, and from what I can decipher, the author’s first foray into the realm of fiction. With a vast amount of experience on the topic, I hoped for something not only filled with accurate details, but that could flow smoothly from the author’s mind to the printed page. Gary Marshall had dreams as a child, including playing for his favourite football club. After a skirmish on his way home from school, he encounters Arnold Dolan, who becomes his best mate and protector. Little does Marshall know that Dolan has a crew of less than stellar misfits, who, after taking him under their wing, begin a life of teenage bedlam. One night, Marshall meets a fate worse than death for him, a crippling injury that leaves him unable to play football ever again. It is only now that things take a turn for the worse, as Dolan and Marshall encounter a young man and get into a skirmish that leaves one dead, one incarcerated, and a third on the lam. Meet Gareth Prince, journalist extraordinaire, and new identity of Gary Marshall. Prince is hiding from his past and those who could track him down and sully his reputation. He’s moved to Cardiff and is taken on as a rugby reporter, though knows nothing of the sport. With the help of a young intern and Welsh rugby legend, Prince begins spinning tales ahead of the Rugby World Cup. However, unable to sever all ties with home, Prince reaches out as Dolan is released from prison, with a score to settle and a secret to reveal. The rest is a jam-packed story set against a huge sporting event and peppered with significant drama. Rippington tells an interesting story, which curious readers might want to investigate.
With no knowledge of Rippington or his abilities, I entered this novel blind. I remained that way, grasping for the storyline throughout the early stages of the book, trying to get my feet under me. However, the momentum picked up as Marshall became Prince and the story’s characters became more relatable soon thereafter. With a few storylines running in parallel, Rippington tells the story of a has-been sports star and his handling of a collection of shattered dreams, as well as a man who knows nothing of the land in which he lives or the metaphoric language everyone speaks. Rippington’s journalistic capabilities shine through here and he is able to develop characters who shine in headline and fleshed-out ways. A great first effort and, looking back, even that opening section has merit and fits nicely with the overall storyline.
Kudos, Mr. Rippington for this intriguing look into Wales, its passion for rugby, and the mysteries of a hidden past.