Long-term solitary confinement is the norm for many people held in Australian prisons, despite the nation and its collection of justice systems all professing to be against this practice. Focusing on the mental breakdown of former armed robber Christopher 'Badness' Pecotic, who has spent about four years of his current term in solitary and faces a possible decade or more of it, Matthew Thompson explores this black hole of 'corrections'.
ARCHIPELAGO OF TERROR
Published in the Weekend Australian
A variety of formerly Al Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups in the southern Philippines have recently declared allegiance to Islamic State. Is it a counterfeit caliphate or a real escalation in South East Asia? Context is crucial.
2015 - LONGFORM REPORTAGE
DON'T GO TO JOLO Sulu Archipelago, southern Philippines
Published in the Sydney Review of Books.
Inside the Asia Pacific frontline of the 'War on Terror' instability and stability can be different words for the same thing. The Sydney Review of Books has for the first time extended into reportage with 'Don't Go to Jolo', Matthew Thompson's novella-length account of the violent intrigues of the Sulu Archipelago, where the US had recently declared its 12-year intervention a success (in a curious use of the term) and withdrawn its forces.
Radio documentary broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National.
'The Last Conquistador' takes the listener into a community where today's 'War on Terror' looks a lot like life a century or more ago. Available for streaming or download here, or with an accompanying opinion piece about the necessity of educated, nuanced, open-minded reporting here.
2014 - NEWSPAPER REPORTAGE
INSIDE THE ICE STORM
Sydney and Blue Mountains, Australia
Published in the Weekend Australian.
Plenty of people have plenty to say about drugs from a great distance, and about methamphetamine in particular. Matthew Thompson lets those who know crystal meth most intimately speak for themselves.
He’s the enigmatic, impulsive, exasperating, destructive, creative, big-hearted outlaw who reaped millions of dollars in daring heists and became a folk hero as big as Ned Kelly when he cockily masterminded two stunning prison breaks in the space of six weeks.
But now Christopher ‘BADNE$$’ Binse is serving a crushing 18 years in solitary confinement he craves death more than infamy. The only redemption Binse can see is to open his soul and tell his epic crazy story to Australia’s pre-eminent gonzo journalist Matthew Thompson in the hope another wild child will learn from the strange and savage saga of his life and think twice.
MAYHEM is the bizarre, scary, brilliantly unique and jaw-dropping inside-story of how a naughty little boy became Australia’s most wanted man and its most notorious prisoner. It is also a searing indictment of what passes for ‘corrections’ in Australia.
MAYHEM is a raw blast of a world gone berserk – a true crime classic like nothing you’ve ever read.
RUNNING WITH THE BLOOD GOD
What are the limits on how a modern life can be led? And what happens to those who defy them?
Troubled that life’s vastness is shrinking as our crowded, stale civilisation overruns wilderness of every kind, Matthew Thompson roams the world chasing those who will live free whatever the cost.
Thompson hunts his free-spirits through a gut-wrenching crackdown in totalitarian Iran, amid rebellion and wretchedness in the Philippines and into the historical rubble of Serbia and Kosovo, before landing in America’s counter-cultural nirvana, Portland, Oregon, leaving the readers to ponder basic questions of why and how we live the way we do, and how else we might live.
In this incredible work of reportage, Thompson walks the line where the liberty of the individual is often a matter of life or death.
"Thompson walks with the kings of the human spirit. The few, those happy few, who lead us to be stronger, braver, better, and sometimes just a little crazier."
Curious about a country he almost grew up in, Matthew Thompson spends several months in Colombia, where he explores the volatile street life of a substantially paramilitarised society while grappling with the relationship between risk and authenticity.
After a series of thrilling, gruelling, telling encounters, Thompson meets a traditional shaman for a ceremony serving a potent brew of yage (ayahuasca) and plunges into the most soul-shredding confrontation of all.
Read an extract about a fraught encounter with Medellin gang members here.
"A wonderful work of nonfiction ... The point of Thompson's journey, and of his book, is the existentialist one that a life lived entirely within a defined role, and in which we are not redefining ourselves every instant, is barely life at all."
IMRE SALUSINSZKY, writing in the Weekend Australian