Sunday, November 11, 2007

Donald Goddard

Author of powerful books on controversial subjects, including the Lockerbie bombing.
A Londoner by birth and a New Yorker by adoption, who spent the second part of his life in rural Sussex, Donald Goddard's formative experience was as an editor at The New York Times between 1962 and 1970, when he developed an intense interest in the then unfashionable subject of the New York underworld. He became the author of powerful books on controversial subjects and on his return to Britain also ran an antiques business, Donay.

Donald Goddard was the son of an engineer, whose wartime memory was of watching dogfights between Stukas and Spitfires and Hurricanes over his beloved South Downs, the area where he was brought up. After school at Dulwich College in London and a degree from Edinburgh University, he gravitated to New York.
His first major book was Joey (1974), the life story of Joey Gallo, a gang leader who was murdered by rival Mafiosi. It was also the love story of Joey and Jeffie Gallo, two strong-willed, intelligent and wildly anarchic people, whose passion for one another was ruinous. One reviewer said that, compared with the relationship between Joey and Jeffie, Antony and Cleopatra stood as models of stodgy domesticity. Gallo's detailed recollections were chronicled with the painstaking care that was characteristic of all Goddard's subsequent writing. He used extensive interviews with Gallo's intimates and the police who monitored Gallo headquarters in Brooklyn, with the psychiatrist who visited Gallo in Attica jail, the testimony of fellow prisoners and correction officials and conversations with Gallo himself. Goddard's narrative revealed the brilliance, ruthlessness and incredible stamina that won Joey Gallo a brief term as a power in the criminal underworld. The book which made Goddard's name in Europe was The Last Days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1976).
Goddard's last book, which brought me into close contact with him over the last 10 years of his life, was Trail of the Octopus: from Beirut to Lockerbie (above) - Inside the Defence Intelligence Agency (1993). This was the story of Lester Knox Coleman, the first American citizen since the Vietnam war to seek political asylum in another country. Hounded by the FBI, the drug enforcement administration and Middle East heroin traffickers, Coleman seemed to Goddard to be a victim of one of the biggest international cover-ups in modern times.

In the spring of 1988, Coleman was on a mission for the world's most secretive and well-funded espionage organisations - the Defence Intelligence Agency. Coleman had been ordered to spy on the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) in Cyprus which, along with the CIA, was running a series of "controlled deliveries" of Lebanese heroin through the airports of Frankfurt and London en route to America. Coleman discovered that the security of this "sting" operation had been breached and warned the American Embassy that a disaster was waiting to happen. He was ignored. Seven months later, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. Among the dead was a DEA courier.

Since then, Washington has claimed that the blame for the bombing rests with Libyan terrorists and negligent Pan Am officials. With Pan Am and their insurers fighting this version all the way, it was never likely that Coleman's experience in Cyprus would go unnoticed. In 1991, American state security apparatus - what Goddard called the "Octopus" - made its move. His book is a gripping investigation into the causes of the Lockerbie disaster and the subsequent manipulation of the evidence.

Although Trail of the Octopus was not considered relevant in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, where Abdel-Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2001, despite the many unanswered questions surrounding the bombing, it would be highly relevant to the public inquiry on Lockerbie that the relatives of those killed want, and that the British and American governments don't want. Goddard was a supreme seeker after truth. If history ever reveals the truth about Lockerbie, I'll wager that Goddard will be one of the unsung heroes in reaching it.

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