Downfall reviewed in the New Zealand Herald


Joan Rosier-Jones has reviewed this ‘long awaited’ history of Charles Mackay in the Whanganui Chronicle. She calls Paul Diamond’s Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay the ‘definitive narrative’ of the former Whanganui mayor:

It has been long awaited, but now Paul Diamond's definitive narrative of Wanganui Mayor Charles Mackay's fall from grace in 1920 is here.

The bones of this story are well-known to many locals, but this work gives the reader a fuller picture of what happened when the mayor shot a young poet who was blackmailing him to resign.

The answers to many questions are discussed at length. Was Mackay framed? Did the recently formed Returned Service Association (RSA) have a hand in it? What part did the Prince of Wales' visit to the city play? Who was D'arcy Cresswell, the injured blackmailer, and what was his motive in trying to rid Wanganui of a popular and progressive mayor?

Both men were closeted homosexuals, a necessity at a time when congress between men was illegal. Was this the reason for Mackay's 'downfall'?

Downfall follows Mackay through the events in May and the trial process, using verbatim court transcripts.

Mackay's imprisonment in various New Zealand penal institutions is well-documented using letters both to and from him. He had a lot of support from people such as poet and prison reformer Blanche Baughan, and this correspondence brings to life Mackay's resilience, humour and humanity.

Read the full review here.