Sometimes fiction is the best way to get to the truth.
The truth was exactly where I started from when I sat down to write The Enemy Within.
On the 5th of June, 2019, I was at my desk at ABC TV News Channel in Sydney when a colleague rushed over to tell me the Australian Federal Police were raiding the building.
The AFP were chasing the source of a story that had been written two years earlier by ABC journalists, Sam Clark and Dan Oakes, about alleged human rights violations committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
The warrant that was used to raid the ABC granted the AFP a power that still disturbs me today. Officers were permitted to “add, copy, delete or alter” the ABC’s files. It was written in black and white. The police could dive in and delete materials in the ABC’s computers.
So disturbed by what was happening that day, my colleague – Head of Investigations, John Lyons – sat in the room and live tweeted everything he saw. Within hours, global media in the US, UK and elsewhere had picked up the story and questions were being asked about the freedom of the press in a democratic country like Australia.
At the time, I had been researching white supremacism and far-right nationalism because I wanted to set my next John Bailey thriller novel in these murky worlds that were growing more powerful by the day. And then I got a call from my publisher, Fiona Henderson. “Those AFP raids would make a great plot line,” she said.
The extraordinary power within the warrant used to raid the ABC was disturbing enough, but I thought to myself: what if that power got into the wrong hands?
Fiona was right, police raids on a journalist would make a great plotline.
Bailey would soon find himself not only investigating white supremacists but also fighting back against a federal police officer who wanted to take him down.
In my crime thriller novels, I like shining lights in dark places to explore some of the harder truths about our world.
In The Enemy Within I got so close to the truth that even I was disturbed by what I saw.