Rebekah Brooks’s husband had important historical drafts of a new novel on one of the laptops he concealed at their Chelsea home, the Old Bailey has heard.
Charlie Brooks told jurors at the phone-hacking trial on Friday that another laptop contained ideas and concepts for four new books he was considering pitching to publisher Harper Collins.
The first draft for his second novel, Switch, had received a negative response from the publisher and he had spent five or six months reworking it between December 2010 and June 2011, a month before his wife was arrested and he hid the computer.
“I remember having what I called a suicidal Christmas because I had sent a pretty major draft in 2010 that had got a withering response from Harper Collins and I was so depressed I never wanted to write again,” Brooks said.
This was on his Apple laptop and was confiscated when the bags he hid behind a bin in the underground carpark beneath the couple’s Chelsea apartment on 17 July 2011 were found by a cleaner. It was returned on 1 August.
Brooks explained that one of the four ideas for books was a “slight rip off” of 84 Charing Cross Road. “The concept was a Hooray Henry had fallen in love with a Russian hooker. He didn’t realise she was a hooker. Behaviourally, she had the temperament of a nice Roedean girl,” he said to much laughter. Mr Justice Saunders cut it and after a brief exchange with Neil Saunders, Brooks’s defence counsel, he said: “I’m just trying to keep it vaguely relevant.”
Another book idea was a take on the classic Mrs Beeton housekeeping book. “I thought the perfect wife should know the offside and the LBW [leg before wicket] rule instead of knowing how to iron sheets and make flower arrangements”
In full swing, Brooks went on to describe another idea was a kind of Bill Bryson book about horses, before being interrupted again by the judge.
He then volunteered that there was “smut” on the computer as well. “I was a bachelor for much of this time, I think it’s fair to say there was quite a lot of smut on it as well.”
Earlier in the trial, which has now being going for five months, the jury heard that among the possessions he hid behind the bins were pornographic DVDs and a magazine.
Brooks prompted chuckling in court as he chronicled his chequered education and career, which included a “dreadful column” in the London Evening Standard before he met Rebekah Brooks.
He told jurors he had done OK at O-levels, but not so well at A-level exams in chemistry, biology and geography.
“I wanted to be a farmer,” he said, explaining why he chose chemistry. But he failed his exam getting an O-level instead of an A-level, “which was pretty poor” after studying the subject for two years, he said.
He then “ridculously optimistically applied to Oxford [University], but they declined to have me” and shortly after became a stable lad in a yard in Lambourne and after six months was “lucky enough to slide my way into Fred Winter’s yard”. Winter was a champion race horse-trainer.
After a period of mucking out and riding out on the gallops, he got a chance to become a jockey and by 1997 he rode a winner at Cheltenham, though Winter was not impressed.
That year he also got a chance to ride in the Grand National, “which was the pinnacle of my life really and I got around [the course] which was even better.”
Brooks went on to buy the Winters yard on a large mortgage, a decision he described as “foolish” as interest rates were low and had given him a false sense of security about affordability.
He later got into writing. His first stint was at the Evening Standard, where he said he wrote a “dreadful column”. “I looked back on a couple of them the other day and they were shocking,” he added.
Brooks said he had more luck at the Telegraph, where he had a racing column for 10 years and a Country Life column which lasted a year. “I really hated doing this.”
A stint at GQ followed, which he ended because there were too many deadlines and it was “killing any creative bone in my body”. Another job at City Am ensued with a racing tips column which gave him a taste of “what a complicated job” his wife had as he tried to self-fund it through advertising.
There was laughter in court as Brooks continued to his next failed venture – a pub in Lambourne which he bought with “someone called Johnny the Fish”. “After about a year, I worked out why he was called Johnny the Fish.”
Asked by Saunders if a foray into cryotherapy business for sports injuries had worked, Brooks replied flatly: “No. Not as a business, the nitrogen was too expensive.”
Another idea that turned out to be too expensive was a scheme to sleep in enclosures with reduced oxygen so “we would all be more intelligent.”
While Brooks was regaling the jury with his business escapades, Rebekah Brooks smiled broadly, occasionally looking up to the public gallery where his mother Caroline and sister Annabel were sitting.
Brooks has been charged along with six others, including his wife and several security staff, with conspiring to pervert the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other electronic equipment from Scotland Yard detectives investigating allegations of phone hacking. He denies the charges.
The trial continues