Moana Ellis reviews Downfall for Stuff Moana Ellis reviews Downfall for Stuff


A review of Downfall: The history of Charles Mackay by Paul Diamond has been published on Stuff. Moana Ellis writes: 

‘Paul Diamond spent 18 years “searching for traces” of the circumstances surrounding the sensational 1920 shooting of returned soldier and poet Walter D’Arcy Cresswell by Whanganui mayor Charles Mackay.

The author is somewhat nervously awaiting the city’s reaction to the release this week of his new book, Downfall – The Destruction of Charles Mackay.

The book hints the town did its utmost to cover up not only the scandal of homosexuality exposed by the Whanganui shooting, but a darker secret that has yet to be uncovered.

Diamond (Ngāti Hauā, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), curator Māori at the Alexander Turnbull Library, says he was advised by a historian not to try to solve the mystery of what happened, but to focus instead on the consequences for the brilliant Mackay, who was outed as a homosexual during the trial that followed.

“Whanganui’s got an amazing history and the book tells a bit of that history. It’s not just a story about these two men and their families, it’s actually about the town.

“It’s very interesting how little reference there is to this incident. It’s either completely ignored or it’s alluded to as ‘unfortunate circumstances’.

“That’s how they were writing about it in the 1960s.

Read the full story here.