Excerpt: The Rough Guide to the Dark Side

Jul 15th, 2012 | By | Category: Articles

The Rough Guide to the Dark Side

Daniel Simpson’s amazing book should be read by everyone who is interested in how the human side of this world really works - which means EVERYONE! He uses humor as Shakespeare did - to lighten the load of a heavy, dark, and important story. John Perkins, author of the bestselling Confessions of an Economic Hitman


A Rough Guide to the Dark Side is a funny, angry and insightful indictment of modern media practice. Daniel Simpson shows us a remarkably dangerous world shaped by the fantasies of the elite and journalists who have embraced subservient fear, savage cost-cutting and institutional laziness. Simpson’s writing demonstrates that we not only deserve better journalism, but that it’s still out there: observing, investigating and informing with humanity and passion. A.L. Kennedy, writer and comedian; author of the Costa Prizewinning Day


The archetypal innocent abroad, Daniel Simpson thought he could help the locals. He dropped out of journalism to run a music festival in Serbia, imagining himself a jaundiced man of the world. But his project became a study in modern corruption, with a learning curve so steep it was more like a suicide’s screaming spiral. Witty and compassionate, yet merciless on himself, he tells a story that’s a constant pleasure to read. Michela Wrong, author of It’s Our Turn to Eat. The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower


Chapter One – ZERO (Excerpt)

I never really meant to join the underworld. I fell in. Fate proved far more powerful than me.

If our story began with a word, that word was lost, and the world appeared to have lost it more than me. I’d been asking people why for most of my life, but it struck me that this question might be pointless. The one that mattered more was how to change things. And I’d struggled with that for a while before meeting my partner.

Back then I didn’t see him in those terms. Our earliest encounters came at random; or so I’d assumed as a sceptical journalist. I felt streetwise when I first set foot in Serbia. In a way, I was sure I’d seen it all before: another country stewing in selfpity, fiercely independent in character, while pimping itself around foreigners for cash. From afar, this sounded rather like a turn-off, with none of the furtive thrills of Balkan wars. The cartoon villains who started them were long gone, and they’d left behind a miserable pariah state. Who cared if it was festering in woe?

To my amazement, I found that I did. This was largely down to my partner’s sense of purpose, and the visions it awakened in us both. Music had revolutionary potential, he said. Young Serbs could be the masters of their destiny, provided they organized ways to come together. The forces that oppressed them would be sidestepped.

There were so many reasons to think he had the answer. Being safe might not be one, but that didn’t bother me. Although it was clear we’d face risks, they mostly seemed trivial. I was hot off the achievement conveyor belt from Cambridge, with boundless expectations for the future. I’d grown accustomed to getting my way if I put my mind to it, and was convinced that if I only kept talking, I’d summon the words to persuade other people of anything.

But nothing’s quite that simple in the Balkans. My partner said we’d need a cunning plan. And for the past few weeks, he’d supplied them in abundance, while puncturing my ignorant assumptions.

Despite this affront to my pride, I felt inspired. ‘You know, most stories are like parody of history,’ he’d said one evening, plying us both with savage shots of firewater, in a bar at the foot of a tower block in Belgrade. ‘What you tell me is grotesque hallucination. No one here believe those lies of West. Speak Serbian, fuck it, so whole world understands you.’

Although I didn’t always understand him, G made sense. Most of what I was paid to write was bunk, especially the bits from politicians. As my partner said, they routinely spouted fiction. Serbia wasn’t a nation in transition, as most of my articles implied. It was stuck in a rut and it needed urgent help. But since there wasn’t a hope of any such thing arriving, our only option left was to intervene: we’d have to hijack its election for a president, and engineer the outcome that we wanted.

G wasn’t the kind of guy you’d want to say no to. And whatever it was he came up with, he sounded for real. His English had a confident authority, with the captivating ring of a pie-eyed piper. It rattled out in blasts of manic brass, which bludgeoned you into surround-sound submission. He’d strut across the city like a battery bunny, while I trotted willingly to heel. Yet despite this perpetual performance, he seemed sincere.

‘I don’t give a fuck!’ he’d exclaim, because he did. Though he was patently absurd, I couldn’t help liking him. His recklessness was infectious, like his laughter.

When the bar had started spinning, he leaned closer. ‘This place became laboratory for future,’ he explained, gesticulating vaguely round the room. ‘For centuries Balkans was battleground of empires, so now we show to world whole different model.’

Author: Daniel Simpson

978-1-78099-307-2 (Paperback) $16.95 / £9.99

978-1-78099-308-9 (Ebook) $9.99 / £7.99

Publishing August 2012

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One Comment to “Excerpt: The Rough Guide to the Dark Side”

  1. john hunt says:

    I like this way of presenting it maria, with the excerpt, cover (great cover) etc. Seems unlikely that anyone would see this and not want to read the book….

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