Union Club launch for Insider’s Guide to Betrayal

Last night saw the official launch of The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal by Donald Finnaeus Mayo at the Union Club in London’s Greek Street. Family, friends, figures from the world of publishing as well as guests from many walks of life gathered at the event to chat with each other and receive signed copies from the author.

With the horrifying events of the past few weeks events on everyone’s minds, the issues raised in the novel have seldom been more pertinent. How do we effectively counter terrorist atrocities that threatens us all, and to what lengths is the state justified in going in order to protect its citizens?

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Donald Finnaeus Mayo signing copies of his latest novel “The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal” at the Union Club in London’s Soho

We’d like to thank everyone who came to the event, and to the Union Club for hosting such a fabulous evening.

 

#spycops – the tawdry facts that couldn’t hold together as fiction

 

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Former undercover officer Andy Coles, photo courtesy of Peterborough Today

Another day, and another former police officer is forced to resign amid allegations he manipulated a young female activist into entering into a sexual relationship while working undercover in the 1990s. This time it’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridge Andy Coles, who has been outed by campaigners from the Undercover Research Group.

The group claims that Coles was part of a covert group of Metropolitan Police Officers who assumed false identities in order to inveigle themselves into the lives of political activists. What is so alarming about the revelations, and the reason why the Met is looking down the wrong end of a whopping lawsuit, is that the activists targeted were by and large engaged in legitimate political protest. Where they erred on the wrong side of the law, it was generally for activities such as breaking into animal laboratories or climbing over fences outside nuclear bases, act that when set against today’s terrorist horrors, seem almost charmingly quaint.

Who authorised officers such as Coles to destroy the lives of these vulnerable young women when the stakes were so pitifully low? And how on earth did they justify the huge amounts of police time and taxpayers’ money on an effort that delivered so little, especially when set against the emotional devastation not only to the victims but to the families of the officers themselves, blissfully ignorant their husbands and fathers were leading state-sponsored double lives?

It does beg the question as to what, if anything, could ever justify such behaviour? It’s this area that’s explored in my new novel, The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal, in which the consequences of ruining a young woman’s life are weighed against the prospect of saving hundreds of innocent civilians from injury, mutilation and violent death.

The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal by Donald Finnaeus Mayo

Published by Betimes Books Available here on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Pilger wins award for reporting on Timor-Leste

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On May 5, Australian journalist John Pilger was presented with the Order of Timor-Leste by East Timor’s Ambassador to Australia, Abel Gutteras, in recognition of his reporting on East Timor under Indonesia’s brutal occupation.

Pilger was reporting undercover in East Timor, as it was then known, in 1993, nearly 20 years after the 1975 Indonesian invasion that forms the backdrop for my novel Francesca.

Pilger’s response is linked below:

 

http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-universal-lesson-of-the-courage-of-east-timor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bingeing and the myth of short attention spans

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Some things are a little complex to convey in a tweet. A scene from Netflix’s original drama series Narcos, depicting the rise of Pablo Escobar

Bingeing, once the preserve of bulimics and young men who drink themselves stupid before throwing up in some concrete town centre precinct, has recently expanded to encompass a whole new form of behaviour. You thought you were harmlessly sitting down in front of your screen to watch the latest on-demand series from the States. Six hours later, bleary eyed, you admit defeat, retire to bed and put aside tomorrow evening for Episodes 7 through 13.

Yes, you’ve got it, you’ve been bingeing, and if there isn’t a self-help group for you already, there’s sure to be one coming your way as this new twist on the concept enters the Oxford Dictionary.

But hang on a minute. Haven’t we spent the past thirty years being told that attention spans have shrunk to a point approaching non-existence? Blame the digital age, declining standards in schools, too much choice, a morally deficient generation, take your pick. These days it’s all tweets, bullet points, elevator pitches and executive summaries.

Yet a groundswell of evidence seems to be moving in the other direction. If attention spans are so short, if people are so reluctant to take the time to look at anything properly, how do we explain the massive global upsurge in sophisticated, multi-layered dramas with large casts of complex characters that take ten or more hours of screen time to unravel?

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Chop chop, mash mash, rush rush… Doesn’t look much like Christmas here for the BBC’s Capital

Let’s take two recent dramas. The first, Capital, based on the novel by John Lanchester, was produced by the BBC and aired towards the end of 2015. I was rather looking forward to this, having enjoyed the book. However, I was a little concerned when I saw it had been condensed into three one-hour episodes. The book comes in at just under 600 pages, so we’re looking at racing through just over three pages a minute, against a more natural page a minute.

No problem there for the get to the point on to the next scene before they hit the remote and start channel-hopping school of commissioning and scheduling. But to me the end result felt choppy and rushed, the characters flattened and unformed. The whole thing stank of corners being cut, from Christmas scenes shot in mid summer to entire story lines being eliminated. Was it just money, or did someone at the BBC believe (a) the book didn’t merit more than three episodes or (b) the audience couldn’t last the course of a full dozen? If it was (a), why did they commission it in the first place, and if it was (b), they need to take a hard look at what’s going on across the Atlantic over at the online subscription channels.

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Once again, the Americans are showing us how it’s done. When it comes to dysfunctional families, Bloodline has it all

Which brings me to the second drama, Bloodline. No one’s in a hurry here, the series’ creators have sufficient self-confidence in their characters’ complexity and the multifarious webs that entangle their fortunes to allow things to unravel at a luxuriant pace, taking in the steamy atmosphere of the Florida Keys.

With Bloodline, it’s easy to see why some of the best actors in the business (in this case Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn) are eschewing the big screen for the depth and subtle character development offered by these big budget extended dramas.

For really, they are novels for the screen, the 21st Century’s answer to Dickens, Tolstoy and George Eliot. Indeed, many novels we now think of as classics were first introduced in episode format in magazines. While readers were gorging on the latest twist in Raskolnikov’s fortunes, poor old Dostoevsky was wondering how the hell he was going to get the next instalment written in time for The Russian Messenger’s deadline. Were the people who waited until the novel appeared in book form and then read the lot in one hit guilty of bingeing? Is refusing to ration an enthralling book into polite segments not exceeding a genteel 30 pages per session a diagnosable illness symptomatic of a need for medical treatment?

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Go binge on this… an episode of Bleak House as it would have first appeared to Victorian readers

I’ll admit it, I like bingeing, whether it’s a book that really grabs me or a Netflix hit like Narcos or NBC Universal’s Friday Night Lights. Because when I binge in this way, what’s really happening is I am being transported into another world with all its dramas, intrigues, heartaches, joys and sorrows. So I’m certainly not going to take offence at anyone bingeing on my novel Francesca.

The story begins in the 1970s with then Indonesian President Suharto cozying up to US President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Suharto, lest we forget, is the man who in 2004 had the dubious distinction of being listed the world’s number one kleptocratic head of state by the global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. Estimates of the extent of his theft during his 31 years in office range from $15 to $35 billion, some three times more than his nearest contender, Marcos of the Philippines.

If you’re robbing your own people on that scale, it’s hardly surprising you don’t lose any sleep when it comes to helping yourself to a neighbouring country. Suharto’s 1975 adventure became a generational and genocidal tragedy for the people of East Timor, and it is this story that is told through the eyes of one young woman, Francesca.

Francesca is available at http://viewbook.at/francesca

 

 

Indonesian executions should have taken no one by surprise

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Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukamaran, two of the eight convicted drug smugglers executed by firing squad in Indonesia. Photograph by Jason Childs/Getty Images courtesy of theguardian.com

No one familiar with Indonesia’s history should be in the least surprised at the indifference its government displayed to world leaders and human rights activists pleading for the lives of the eight drug traffickers executed by firing squad earlier this week.

For all its exotic charm and hospitable people, there is a ruthless, vicious disregard for the sanctity of human life that runs through many of Indonesia’s institutions, in particular the army, who have kept its rulers in power for much of the modern state’s existence and remain a force to be reckoned with.

Two episodes in the country’s recent history stand out. The first are the purges of the mid 1960s, when gangs, supported by elements of the army, went on the rampage to eliminate undesirables ranging from communists, trades unionists, government officials and teachers to anyone suspected of leftist leanings, or simply someone the local gang warlord didn’t like the look of. By the time it ended, around half a million people had been slaughtered by these militias. The bloodbath, depicted in the recent Oscar nominated documentary “The Act of Killing”, attracted almost no attention from the outside world at the time.

The second episode, also largely ignored by the international community, was is the 1975 invasion by Indonesian forces of East Timor, which forms the jumping off point for my novel Francesca. This completely unprovoked annexation resulted in a quarter of a century of oppression before East Timor finally gained its independence in 2002, at an estimated cost of a third of the population.

Suharto may be gone, but with stuff like this in your country’s DNA, you’re not about to lose any sleep over machine-gunning a few coke dealers, however spurious the evidence against them or mitigating the circumstances.

To me, what stands out is the shocked response from a world that by and large remained utterly indifferent to these twin tragedies in Indonesia’s recent past. Granted, communications then weren’t what they are now, but it wasn’t that long ago that Indonesia was able to wage genocide on the entire East Timorese population and get away with it. Australian Prime Ministers weren’t recalling ambassadors or engaging in personal pleas to the President to stop the killing. Eventually Indonesia did succumb to outside pressure, once they realised the war wasn’t worth the resources they were expending waging it, but it took a while. Too long for many.

Francesca opens with a scene in which President Suharto is outlining his plans for Timor to the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and President Ford. In a dialogue drawn from records in the President Ford Library, both Ford and Kissinger, who know exactly what Suharto’s plans entail, happily give him the green light to proceed, requesting only the Indonesians wait until the Americans are back on US soil.

Returning to last week’s events, it’s hard to conclude anything other than the uncomfortable thought that what really galvanises the international human rights community is that some of the condemned drug smugglers were Australian citizens. In other words, people whom rich, articulate westerners could understand and identify with – a son, a brother, a sister perhaps gone astray, fallen into bad company, made some poor choices, but still a human being nevertheless deserving of mercy and understanding. Unlike the faceless victims of East Timor.

Francesca, a seventeen year old Timorese girl, encounters the same thing. As the capital city of Dili burns around her, she witnesses Chinese traders being lined up and shot for… well, being Chinese traders; women being raped then murdered for… well, being women; Timorese citizens being burned to death in their homes for being… yes, you’ve guessed it, Timorese citizens. When she finally escapes, she enquires as to the fate of a group of Portuguese nuns she knew. Assuming the worst, she is surprised to be told they were airlifted to safety by an Australian helicopter.

Not because they were nuns, but because they were western nuns.

Francesca is available at http://viewbook.at/francesca