True story of crime, car chases and gypsies proves to be bestseller

Mike Woodhouse with his book The Gypsy Code which includes his time in Diss. Picture: Simon Parkin

Mike Woodhouse with his book The Gypsy Code which includes his time in Diss. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

A tale of violent underworld feuds, car chases, petrol bombings and being offered a home by gypsies has had readers gripped this year.

The extraordinary story of Mike Woodhouse is told in his book The Gypsy Code. Picture: Penguin Books

The extraordinary story of Mike Woodhouse is told in his book The Gypsy Code. Picture: Penguin Books - Credit: Penguin Books

But though it may sound like the plot of a novel, The Gypsy Code is based on the eventful experiences of first-time author Mike Woodhouse and covers 17 years of his life in Diss.

Since being published in April the memoir has proved to be a bestseller and has attracted the interest of production companies keen to adapt it.

Mr Woodhouse said: "It's been a rollercoaster. This is the first time I've had any experience as an author and it has been amazing, far beyond what I expected.

"It is still selling really well. It has consistently been around the top 500-600 to 2,000 bestsellers on Amazon, which is amazing considering they have something like six million books on their virtual bookshelf."

The Gypsy Code tells the riches to rags story of Mike Woodhouse which began with a run-in with trave

The Gypsy Code tells the riches to rags story of Mike Woodhouse which began with a run-in with travellers in Diss. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin


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Reader reaction has proved to be overwhelmingly positive too.

"I had two emails at the start from people who were not favourable but I've had more than a thousand from folks who said they've enjoyed it, people from all walks of life," he said. "I've had people saying it is the only book they have read since leaving school."

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The book charts Mr Woodhouse's conversion from someone who confesses to once hating the traveller community to becoming their unlikely champion after his life fell apart and he ended up in a trailer himself.

The reaction of that community was one aspect of publishing the book he worried about, but he adds: "The feedback I have had is that they have found it to be very fair-minded. There are parts of it that are quite harsh and parts that have a humorous side."

Norfolk author Mike Woodhouse is working on a follow-up to The Gypsy Code, titled Caleb and based on

Norfolk author Mike Woodhouse is working on a follow-up to The Gypsy Code, titled Caleb and based on a travellers folktale. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

Travellers' tales have helped inspire a follow-up book, titled Caleb, that he is currently working on.

He said: "It is based on an old travelling folk tale. It is a story that is passed down from one generation to another. I heard it a few times during my times living amongst them. I have changed it quite a bit but the basis of the story is the same.

"It is a completely different style and I am hoping that Penguin will keep the faith with me and give me a chance with a second book."

And as for seeing The Gypsy Code on the screen? "There have been some production companies talking to my agent and Penguin," he says.

The caravan on gypsy owned land in Essex where Mike Woodhouse wrote his book The Gypsy Code. Picture

The caravan on gypsy owned land in Essex where Mike Woodhouse wrote his book The Gypsy Code. Picture: Mike Woodhouse - Credit: Mike Woodhouse

"Obviously that would be very exciting if that happens. Watch this space."

Mike Woodhouse outside the building on Market Hill in Diss where he once ran the Number 13 wine bar.

Mike Woodhouse outside the building on Market Hill in Diss where he once ran the Number 13 wine bar. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

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