„THE STREET“ by Paul McNally
Paul McNally is a journalist. He is the co-founder of podcasting company Volume (www.volume.africa). In the past he has created award-winning community radio projects like The Citizen Justice Network and created the award-winning podcast series Alibi. He was a 2016 Knight Visiting Neiman fellow at Harvard. This is his first book.
1. Why did you decide to come in Montenegro?
It’s a country that I’ve always wanted to visit. It seemed like a country with a complicated past and promising future. And also the perfect place to visit on my way to moving back to the UK. I much prefer it to my visit to Croatia which has been over run by tourists. While Montenegro seems more authentic.
2.Does Montenegro inspire you?
I think the people in Montenegro are an inspiration. The way they have dealt with so much and still have a calm, personable demeanour.
3. Taking in consideration that you live in Johanesburg, what is position of writer there?
We have lost a lot in South Africa, but we still have free speech. Journalists are not often targeted and assassinated. There are experts who predict South Africa could go the way of a South American country and be ruled by violence and gangs entirely, but it hasn’t got to that point yet. Writers are still able to say and tweet what they like and even though they may get online criticism or abuse.
4. Did you get any threatens as a journalist?
I have had incidents when I am scared and I have been in situations that I’ve considered dangerous, but I’ve never been threatened.
5. In your book „The street“ you write about cooropted police officers, can you tell me more about it?
The police in Johannesburg take bribes from drug dealers all day, every day. The book features one particular spot in Johannesburg where this bribery is happening in plain sight. And it is from a man’s shop called Raymond that I was able to observe the bribery taking place. I was able to interview the drug dealers and understand the ecosystem that was happening there. For example next to Raymond was a pawn shop and even though the owner hated the drug dealers in the street he benefited because drug users would come to the pawn shop to sell stuff urgently in order to get money to buy drugs. The book also features a police officer who is desperate to talk and has witnessed cops torturing a boy in another part of the country.
But the story eventually revolves around a female police officer and a male drug lord who get into a sexual relationship together. And then they are able to rule the street, by taking bribes, making arrests and selling drugs as a team.
6.Hence, It is important to emphasize that names of charqcters in your book are changed.
According to book i have feeleng that guys from street who chose wrong way were collaborative ?
We definitely changed the names of everyone in the book. Though, I should say that once the book was published the main character „Raymond“ had no problem telling people that the book was about him. He would tell police officers and drug dealers and anyone who would listen who he really was. This put him at huge risk, but he didn’t care and rather wanted people to know that he had been involved.
Everyone in this world works together in some way and they do this to survive.
7. What was your feeling when you finished the book?
Well, it’s interesting. A book like this doesn’t really „finish“ – the story keeps going on in real life. So when the book first came out I felt like I wasn’t done. Once I did an update in October 2019 (and added in a whole extra part) then I felt satisfied that it was finished. And once you can put a work like this to bed then you can feel satisfied – but also a little scared that the bad people you have written about are going to come and find you.
8. Do you thonk it would have influence on society there?
Definitely. I have had people come up to me and say how much it has changed their impression of the police. But unfortunately the corruption is so entrenched that it wasn’t able to make a dent in the problem. South Africa is a deeply corrupted society. It did manage to create awareness and lead to the arrest of the police officer who was in a sexual relationship with a drug dealer. And that is where the book ends.
9. As a writer i have to say that freedom of speech has rude punishments by dictotors. According to my source 49 prisons are going to be built for writers and journqlists in Turkey? What is your comment about it?
I think this is a terrible. But you can’t keep freedom of expression down. We’ve seen that in places like Ethiopia where journalists and writers were imprisoned and eventually they got out and started reporting even more enthusiastically than before.
10. Did you offer your book to film industry? Would you like to see your story as a movie?
It did get „optioned“ by a production studio based in the UK. And my dreams would be to see it as a series. One that could really dig into the corruption problems of South Africa and expand on what the book started.
11. Any plans for the future?
I’m in podcasting now. I produce investigations in audio. Check it out at www.volume.africa/alibi.
12. What is hiddent streight of a good journalist?
I think you need to give yourself time to stick with a story. You also need to find your „voice“ and have a distinctive way of writing so people recognize (when they read you) that it’s you. Also, you need a good measure of being fearless.