Please forgive this post. Global Gangland came out today which means it is overly reflective and full of writer whining.
Inevitably given it was the official publication date, I did the author in bookshop thing. I went into my local bookshop just to look at it on the shelves. From Stephen King to Martin Amis, Will Self to Don Delillo, I am sure every author does it.
The moment when you first see your creation in its natural environment is like the completion of a powerful magical spell. Your words have shaped information, created a reality that can be shared – brought this physical object in front of you into existence. For a few seconds it all seems worth it.
My feelings on seeing Global Gangland at Waterstones are far more complex than I experienced when Secrets & Lies or Conspiracy Theories hit the shelves. At one level I have incredible pride. I wrote this book when my life was falling apart. Through serious illness and suicidal pull, I wrote this. Against seemingly impossible deadlines at the lowest point in my life, I still managed to create a 100,000 book others can now read. Through tears, blood and pain, word by word, I called it into existence from the blackness. Global Gangland is my artefact pulled from the abyss.
I also have a small degree of pride about the contents of the book. It is the most comprehensive illustrated history of global organized crime you can buy. There is no other book that tackles crime in so many countries. Nothing else runs the gamut from the Mongrel Mob in New Zealand to the Commands in Brazil, from Jacky le Mat (the Death Cheater) to Dawood Ibrahim. I know I have put some material into the English language no one has done before. There is no other place to read 1,000 words on the Mala del Brenta or the links between the Bonanno family and Tonton Macoutes. If anyone uses the line about the L.A. Mafia ‘All they ever did was kill Superman’, it will be a lift from Global Gangland.
I am pleased to have written an objective book that finds space to talk about the victims of organized crime. It remembers those usually forgotten. It captures the shadows of the innocent as well as the guilty. At least now there is one volume trying to honour the bravery of journalists such as Raúl Gibb Guerrero and Alfredo Jiménez who were murdered for reporting the truth about Mexican drug cartels
Despite the ghastly editing process, my fingerprints, my DNA is everywhere in the text. True crime books are not usually political, but this is a David Southwell project. Therefore no one who has read my previous work should be surprised Gloval Gangland has recurring subtexts on poverty, social exclusion, libertarian economics and Thatcherism. No shock either that the Black Panthers, JFK, the CIA, obscure secret societies and other leif motifs from my previous work are amongst the bloodstains. No one should be taken aback it is probably the only organized crime tome to mention The Avengers as an influence on the Serbian underworld.
In some places it is an incredibly personal book in even more direct ways than displaying my personal Weltanschauung. You can catch glimpses of me as a young reporter covering the Rettendon murders, walking with Anne-Marie along the Lisburn Road in Belfast, growing up with my mother’s tales of the Richardsons or hearing my brothers stories of Roppongi and his dealings with the Yakuza. I can even spot traces of the Ford Cortina culture of my childhood I had not realised had rubbed off on me before.
The publishers wanted me to: ‘Do to crime what you did to conspiracies’ and at worst I think I have achieved that. I also hope I have produced a good read for those interested in the criminal underworld and a reasonable reference and primer on global criminality. It has its cultish elements, is above hackwork, with both senior detectives and major criminal players deemed the draft version as ‘accurate’ and ‘interesting’. Despite being written during the shittiest period of my life, it is definitely not the worst published thing with my name on it
However, for my entire ridiculous conceit about Global Gangland, when I look at it on the shelves I cannot push aside certain ambivalence. I cannot forget that due to the publisher’s ‘mistake’, it is a work placing me in real in danger. Secrets & Lies earned me threats from the CIA, but at least I felt I had really achieved something worthwhile in getting it published. I do not have the same sense of accomplishment for Global Gangland, partly I suspect because looking at it reminds me so much of the 100 miles of hell I have been through since this time last year. I just know that I would not want to die for Global Gangland nor for it to be remembered as the last thing I wrote.
Seeing it on the shelves today made me connect with the feeling I want to have the author in bookshop thing at least once more in my life. Next time for a book I can be entirely proud for having written.