Downfall reviewed in DNA magazine Australia


Graeme Aitken has reviewed Paul Diamond’s Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mckay in DNA magazine Australia: 

‘This fascinating book explores a homosexual scandal in 1920s New Zealand when the popular mayor of Whanganui, Charles Mckay shot D’Arcy Cresswell, a young man who was blackmailing him over his sexuality.

Some of the details and motivations behind what happened have been lost, but Diamond does an excellent job sorting through the most likely scenarios. It seems probably that Cresswell had been enlisted by Mckay’s political enemies to blackmail him as he was not seeking money but instead insisting that Mckay resign as mayor.

The shooting was not fatal, and Cresswell recovered and went on to enjoy a literary career in London, publishing memoirs, and mixing with Lady Ottoline Morrell and the Bloomsbury set. He was also, later in life, open about his own homosexuality, making his involvement threatening another (closeted) gay man even more curious.

Mckay was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for attempted murder, lost his family, his career, and had his achievements as mayor erased from history. He was released early after serving six-and-a-half years, though he was obliged to leave the country.

The book has been beautifully produced with a wealth of historic photographs accompanying the text and enlivening the story of hidden homosexual lives in provincial New Zealand.’