My new novel, An Honest Deceit, asks – what kind of relationship do we have with the truth?
Given that the novel was started back in 2011, it seems strangely fitting that it should be published just as Donald Trump is elected president, in a world in which ‘post-truth’ politic reigns. Statistical analysis found that in his speeches Trump only told the truth 14 percent of the time. We seem to be living in an age where the truth really doesn’t count, and An Honest Deceit describes that world. To illustrate this shift, I follow the story of a man whose young daughter is tragically killed on a school trip. When the story given about her death simply doesn’t add up, this man goes digging for answers and soon he, and his family, are on a rollercoaster ride.
When I first began the novel it was a simple study of grief, a look at how a family might hold together in crisis. But since 2011 more and more stories about cover-ups came out, starting with the huge Jimmy Savile scandal. This led on to more and more stories about whistle-blowers in the NHS being hounded for speaking out against powerful institutions. In 2014 attended a talk given by Paul Moore, a banker who’d been hounded from his job when he raised concerns about the devil-may-care attitude the HBOS bank was having towards its customers savings – just before the bank itself crashed. During the talk Moore mentioned wanting to write a book on this, and afterwards I offered my services to him, thinking I could maybe help find him a publisher. I ended up co-editing his memoir, which became a bestseller. Whilst working with him I saw first-hand the effects the whistleblowing has in an age where the truth isn’t valued – but political expediency and quick profits are. Moore gave an account to Parliament of his experience, and found that his truth was of interest to the political elite briefly, while it was useful to them.
Shortly after, I decided that my ‘study of grief’ should be about cover-ups, and I put together a bid for Arts Council funding to research the novel fully. When the bid was successful I was able to interview world leading experts on this subject, such as Andrew Jennings. Jennings had become famous for exposing corruption at the Olympic IOC committee and he’d recently turned his attention to the poppy-banning FIFA. When I spoke to Andrew Jennings, I soon learned that the get-rich-quick mentality Moore described in banking was even more apparent in the world of sports administration. The theme seemed to be ‘strong institutions.’ Jenning’s had been contacted by the FBI who were soon to use the evidence he’d gathered on FIFA as part of a story that would rock the world. The interview he did with me blew my mind, though I was unable to share much about it at the time. I put my thoughts on the matter into An Honest Deceit. I chaired talks on the subject of cover-ups, bringing in the likes of David Drew, NHS whistle-blower whose story is a carbon copy of Moore’s in many respect. These experiences instilled in me an anger towards corrupt institutions that I expressed in An Honest Deceit. An anger that ordinary people trying to live honest lives can end up in sticky webs of pain and deceit, if their accounts happen to not convenience powerful organisations. Although it was the hardest book I’ve yet written it is the one I feel most passionately about.
On Tuesday 22nd November Guy Mankowski will be speaking more on his research on The Honest Deceit as part of Books On The Tyne. Tickets are available here.
An Honest Deceit was described by The Huffington Post as ‘a novel of outstanding quality’ and is now available through Urbane Publications here.
To read more about Guy Mankowski, see his blog.