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A Rough Guide To The Dark Side Paperback – 31 Aug 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books; Reprint edition (31 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780993072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780993072
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.4 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 691,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Amazing ... uses humor as Shakespeare did - to lighten the load of a heavy, dark, and important story" (John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman)


"The archetypal innocent abroad, Daniel Simpson thought he could help the locals ... But his project became a study in modern corruption, with a learning curve so steep it was more like a suicide's screaming spiral." (Michela Wrong, author of It's Our Turn To Eat)


"A funny, angry and insightful indictment of modern media practice ... 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)


"A courageous quest in pursuit of truth ... A Rough Guide To The Dark Side is a telling memoir, which shows that while music has the power to change the world, it is the heart of the individual that truly makes a difference." (Michael Lang, co-producer of Woodstock)

Book Description

Ever dreamed of changing the world? Daniel Simpson shows how not to do it.His memoir charts a gonzo career at The New York Times. Ambitious and idealistic, he was hired to report on the Balkans but quit within months, freaked out by his editor's zeal for starting wars. Disillusioned, Daniel went native in Belgrade. Together with the charismatic G, who'd appeared one night in lavish puffs of dope smoke, he decided to organize Serbia's version of Woodstock: a festival on an island in the Danube.Music could revolutionize the country. It was run by a wartime mafia, and most young people dreamed of leaving. But what if they made it Ibiza crossed with Glastonbury? To fund this transition, they hustled Daniel's contacts, but shady local businessmen had other ideas. Mr Big muscled in, and embroiled them with his henchmen.Why do good intentions go awry? With brutally honest humor, Daniel recounts his journey to the edge, and a desperate drug-fuelled quest for the truth. A Rough Guide To The Dark Side is a real-life trip through Balkan organized crime. More irreverent than McMafia, it has the vicarious kicks of Mr Nice and Shantaram, in the travelogue style of Bill Bryson or Tony Hawks, but with added bile and an overdose of hubris.

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Fed up with recycling press releases for the New York Times, Daniel Simpson had a bash at solving the Eastern Question by staging a music festival on a Serbian island. My own experience of such things is limited, but even in the best of circumstances it can't be easy. In Serbia in the early 2000s, besides the usual problems of money, drugs, bureaucracy, rampant egos and organisational snafu, there was the minor complication of the country being largely run by the mafia. Oh, and the weather didn't help either. Though his style and a few of his substances remind one of Hunter S Thompson, Simpson comes across more bemused than enraged; the frenzied epilogue to his book, which reads like a succession of Raoul Duke's Monday morning diary notes, is a marked break in the style and (on first reading, anyway) much less appealing than the rest. Most of the time, Simpson lets the weirdness of events speak for themselves (the adviser who corpses during interview is a particular delight), with much engaging commentary from G, his partner in the enterprise, and various enlightening asides on everything from the zombie horrors of professional journalism through the art of Balkan swearing to the craft of stashing drugs in one's personal tubing. If you do happen to be touring the dark side, you could do much worse for a guide.
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Didn't know what to expect from this book! It's an account of trying to organise a music festival In Belgrade, and a lot of the players interactions ring true! I've worked in the Balkans, and kept thinking as I was reading the book 'Oh, it didn't just happen to me then!' when the narrator was fobbed off with explanations and justifications that didn't ring true! The narrator's Balkan sidekick kept explaining to him why they acted like they do, so wish I'd read it before I'd gone out there!
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This book in its first fifty pages tells you everything you didn't want to believe about how the giants of western news media follow the powers that be, behaving not like feverish news hounds but like slavish lap dogs, following the trail set for them by their political masters without questioning the course they're on. The author concentrates on his previous employer, the New York Times, which views itself not as a searchlight on power, but as the public expression of the US power. PR for the powerful, you might say. Nice.
The author's own searchlight could equally be applied to many other western media miscreants, but he then turns it on himself, and is equally forthright. He openly admits his own societal sins, most specifically his search for drugs and consumption of them, their effects and his experiences in general, against the backdrop of a search to become the man he wants to be by taking on a new life path.
In taking this road, he is helped by the prospect dangled before him by a much-travelled new acquaintance (from Canada to London's Shepherd's Bush Green) that they create a cathartic rock festival in Serbia. This leads him to the third 'dark side' of his book, the hidden cronyism, money-making and manipulation of Serbia's post-Milosevic oligarchs, institutions and men of influence behind the scenes in the noughties. Much of what he describes could apply to many countries in Eastern Europe. He sees and feels things at first hand, but the insight into these galling experiences comes mainly through the eyes of his new Serbian business partner (who views such happenings in Serbia as the natural result and expression in European micro-scale of all that the western Powers have done in and outside Serbia.
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The Rough Guide to the Dark Side was very funny but it also taught me loads about the Balkans without ever feeling like a lesson. It has also cured me of my prejudice against Serbs which I have been very ashamed of for a while. In fact, it has really made me want to go to Serbia - although I'm not sure everyone will have that reaction! I would have fallen hook line and sinker for the charismatic G, too. The book recounts some terrible mistakes and desperate times but it is also inspiring. It is a great tale of hope and shattered dreams but is somehow not depressing in any way. It exudes vitality and a love of life and is psychologically very insightful. It's also very well written!
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