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Paul Diamond

An interview with author Paul Diamond, just before the launch of his book Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay. The event took place at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington, on 15 November 2022.

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Paul Diamond reveals that the journey to produce "Downfall" spanned 18 years, requiring extensive research across New Zealand and in cities such as London and Berlin. Initially inspired while Diamond worked at Radio New Zealand in the early 2000s, the project transitioned from a radio program to a full-fledged historical investigation with support from various colleagues, such as Prue Langbein.

The book explores the life and impact of Charles Mackay, a mayor in the 1920s whose life was marred by a scandal involving the shooting of Walter D'Arcy Cresswell and the subsequent sensationalism around Mackay's sexuality.

Diamond discusses shifts in research methodologies due to the evolution of digital archives, which benefitted the accuracy and breadth of their historical inquiry. The author grapples with the societal context of the term "homosexual" when Mackay's story unfolded, noting its origins in the medical profession and use during Mackay's trial.

The impact of Mackay's story extended beyond personal interest for Diamond, prompting an exploration of medical history and treatments for homosexuality, such as auto-suggestion and hypnosis. The author reflects on changes in public perception and openness when discussing queer history over the decades, with marked progress seen in community engagement and initiatives like the Rainbow List Project.

Diamond speaks about the personal commitment involved in their 18-year project, driven by a deep sense of curiosity about queer lives throughout history. Their research culminated in a detailed book, meticulously verified by editor Anna Rogers and supplemented by evidential footnotes to allow future scholars to trace the author's interpretative journey.

The author expresses a personal connection to Mackay, imagining a conversation about their experiences in Berlin before their life was disrupted. The recording concludes with Diamond contemplating the missing diary of Mackay, which could provide further insight into Mackay's life.

This interview not only highlights the release of "Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay" but also underscores the historical significance of Mackay's story and its enduring influence on queer historiography in New Zealand.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:15th November 2022
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:National Library of New Zealand, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004695).