Victor Rodger reviews Downfall on The Spinoff


Paul Diamond’s latest book Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay has been reviewed on The Spinoff. Victor Rodger writes:

A closeted mayor with huge ambitions. 

A handsome, young, returned soldier with ambiguous motivations.

A scandalous shooting that leads to a spectacular fall from grace.

This could easily be the intro voiceover for an episode of Bravo’s lurid true life drama series, Snapped, or perhaps the blurb for a TV series that might star the likes of Karl Urban and KJ Apa.

Instead, these are bullet points from a real-life Kiwi scandal from the 1920s that has, just over a century later, inspired Paul Diamond’s thoughtful and meticulously researched book Downfall: the destruction of Charles Mackay.

And what a downfall. Almost overnight Mackay went from being the mayor of the-then h-less Wanganui, to a man who lost everything: his freedom, his family, and his entire fortune.

Ostensibly it was all because handsome 24-year-old aspiring poet D’Arcy Cresswell threatened to expose Mackay if he didn’t resign from the mayoralty. What exactly Cresswell was threatening to expose — and, crucially, why — was never made explicit, but Mackay definitely had something to hide: he was a married father of three, but he was also a gay man in 1920s New Zealand. It’s clear he wanted to keep his secret at all costs — even if it meant trying to silence D’Arcy Cresswell by shooting him.’

Read the full review here.