Guyana Diaspora

'89 percent of Guyana 's graduate population live and work in the 30 relatively rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -"Fruit that falls far from the tree",
The Economist, 03 November 2005'

It is estimated that there are as many Guyanese living overseas as they are in Guyana
They are spread out far and wide to almost every country on the planet
This blog was created to chronicle the news and and stories of the Diaspora

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Crime Fiction Writer

Born in Georgetown, Guyana, writer Mike Phillips moved to Britain as a child and grew up in London. He was educated at the University of London and the University of Essex, and gained a Postgraduate Certificate of Education at Goldsmiths College, London.

Writer Mike Phillips was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He moved to Britain as a child and grew up in London. He was educated at the University of London and the University of Essex, and gained a Postgraduate Certificate of Education at Goldsmiths College, London.

He worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcaster between 1972 and 1983 on television programmes including The Late Show and Omnibus, before becoming a lecturer in media studies at the University of Westminster. He has written full-time since 1992.

He is best known for his crime fiction, including four novels featuring black journalist Sam Dean: Blood Rights (1989), which was adapted for BBC television, The Late Candidate (1990), winner of the Crime Writers' Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, Point of Darkness (1994) and An Image to Die For (1995). The Dancing Face (1997) is a thriller centred on a priceless Benin mask.

His last novel, A Shadow of Myself (2000), is a thriller about a black documentary filmmaker working in Prague and a man who claims to be his brother. He is currently working on a sequel.

Mike Phillips co-wrote Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain (1998) to accompany a BBC television series telling the story of the Caribbean migrant workers who settled in post-war Britain.

His next book, London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain (2001), is a series of interlinked essays and stories, a portrait of the city seen from locations as diverse as New York and Nairobi, London and Lodz, Washington and Warsaw.

Critical Perspective
Dr James Procter
Mike Phillips is a gifted, entertaining storyteller who has performed his work with equal success in front of academics and prison inmates. His critically acclaimed novels have attracted a cult following and Phillips's reputation is spreading rapidly, not just within the UK, but across the US and Europe where he is a regular speaker.

Phillips has said that very early on in his career he made the conscious decision to work within the specific literary genre of crime, or detective fiction. As a Black British writer, Phillips's choice is an interesting and unusual one. In the United States the crime novel is closely associated with Black literature through the work of celebrated African American authors such as Chester Himes and Walter Mosley.

However in Britain, with the notable exception, perhaps, of Victor Headley's best selling Yardie trilogy, or more recently, Diran Adebayo's My Once Upon a Time, Black writers have not appropriated the tropes of the thriller. This, despite and, arguably, because of the centrality of criminality to constructions of the post-war Black presence in Britain.In a recent essay on Black British writing, Phillips provides some clues as to the significance of the detective genre for his writing.

Exploring how Black writers have tended to become imprisoned 'within the idea of race and blackness', he argues that the crime novel allows him to disrupt the canonical literary tradition, to write in his own 'voice rather than the voice of a white Englishman or a foreign "postcolonial"'. The crime novel allows Phillips both to self-consciously confront his own relationship to a white English cultural heritage and to challenge essentialist, universal notions of Black subjectivity.

Phillips does not simply reproduce the dominant structures of crime fiction, or reverse them in order to replace the white urban investigator with a Black protagonist. Rather, he seeks to disrupt the oppositions installed within the crime novel, with its divided moral universe, neatly compartmentalised into good and evil, black and white. In his first novel, Blood Rights (1989), Black journalist Samson Dean is paid to investigate the disappearance of Virginia Baker. The investigation unravels in a way that, as Phillips points out, not only challenges English 'moral certainties', but also sees Sam Dean 'continually obliged to reconstitute his own moral code within a culture where he is a moral outlaw'.

In common with crime fiction more generally, Blood Rights seduces its reader through the agility of its plot and its ability to generate mystery, intrigue and suspense. Sam Dean's mission takes him from London to Manchester and into an investigation of the mysterious, Roy Akimole, the unacknowledged brother of missing Virginia. Roy is the 'illegitimate' son of respectable MP Grenville Baker, the product of a (concealed) relationship with a Black woman. Roy's oedipal revenge on his father stands at the heart of this mystery, which is also an investigation into repressed relations between black and white Britain.

In his later novels such as The Late Candidate (1990), Point of Darkness (1994), The Dancing Face (1997) and A Shadow of Myself (2000) Phillips continues to innovate, taking the thriller form in different directions.

At the same time he develops many of the issues and themes already raised within his debut fiction, Blood Rights to create a recognisable and distinctive body of writing (Sam Dean, for example, is the hero in several of the novels).

Revolving around the detection of murders, missing people and mysterious disappearances, each novel is also an investigation into the limits of 'Blackness' and Britishness. Collectively they might be read as attempts to expose that which are concealed behind terms like 'race', nationality and belonging.

Phillips's most recent novel, A Shadow of Myself is arguably his most ambitious and successful thriller to date. Moving beyond Britain, the novel occupies a larger landscape than many of the earlier works, taking in the likes of Hamburg, Prague, Moscow and Berlin, not to mention London. A Shadow of Myself (as the title itself suggests) playfully evokes one of the key figures of the crime novel the doppelganger.

The text pivots around George and Joseph Coker and the consequences of their 'chance' encounter at a film festival in Prague. Kofi, the father of these recently re-united brothers constitutes the central enigma of the narrative, opening up a sinister world of intrigue and murder in which Joseph is another potential victim.

A sophisticated, superbly crafted novel, A Shadow of Myself extends the concerns with citizenship and racial coding evident in the earlier novels to a wider, European context.

Phillips is not just a novelist of considerable talent. He has also produced several important works of non-fiction. He wrote and co-edited Windrush: the Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain with his brother Trevor to coincide with the Windrush anniversary and the major BBC TV series, Windrush. The anniversary celebrations were designed to commemorate the beginnings of large scale West Indian migration to Britain, marked by the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush in Tilbury in 1948.

The book is, among other things, an invaluable compilation of passages and quotations from the pioneering settlers and their children offering a vivid, intimate history of Black Britain since the war. His most recent book, London Crossings (2001) is a fascinating collection of essays.

The opening sections recollect Phillips's childhood, from the early years in Guyana to the formative years growing up in London between 1956 and 1980. The pieces chart Phillips's growth alongside an increasing familiarity with the metropolitan landscape as the 'I' narrator criss-crosses London, piecing together the city section by section without ever comprehending it whole.

In later sections Phillips intersperses creative writing with personal accounts of journeying in Europe and North America. Subtitled A Biography of Black Britain, the volume is also a poignant autobiographical account of the author's life.

From contemporarywriters

Novels
Community Work and Racism
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982
Smell of the Coast Akira, 1987
Blood Rights Michael Joseph, 1989
The Late Candidate Michael Joseph, 1990
Boyz 'n' the 'Hood Pan, 1991
Notting Hill in the Sixties (photographs by Charlie Phillips) Lawrence & Wishart, 1991
Point of Darkness Michael Joseph, 1994
An Image to Die For HarperCollins, 1995
The Dancing Face HarperCollins, 1997
Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain (with Trevor Phillips) HarperCollins, 1998
A Shadow of Myself HarperCollins, 2000
London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain Continuum, 2001

Prizes and awards
1991 Crime Writers' Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction The Late Candidate

Buy books by Mike Phillips at Amazon.co.uk

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