MATTHEW Thompson’s new book, Running With The Blood God, will not leave a footprint on your brain – it will leave a bootprint, indelibly inked in your subconscious.
Thompson, who holds a doctorate in creative arts, is a part-time firefighter in Dungog, where he lives with his wife Renae and daughter Avalon. He is also a guest lecturer at universities and writes freelance articles.
Five years ago he published his first book, My Colombian Death, an intense non-fiction account of his six-month journey to the exotic, drug-laden South American country full of characters and character.
Blood God, his second book, charts a course through even more dangerous territory.
He spends time in Iran, avoiding the ever-probing eyes of soldiers, police and shady operatives who are constantly arresting, harassing and torturing ordinary citizens who dare to disobey the strict Muslim covenants set by then leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He journeys to the Philippines, secretly visiting guerillas in the jungles north-west of Manila.
He takes a jolting road trip from Serbia to Kosovo with hard-core Serbian nationalists.
And finally, a stop in Portland, Oregon, to hang out with counterculturists and Native Americans in one of the most alternative major cities in America.
The book is subtitled ‘‘down and dirty with freedom fighters, rebels and misfits’’ and Thompson certainly gives his subjects, who come from all walks of life but have common ground in fighting against governments they consider unjust, a fair chance to explain themselves.
‘‘It’s more of a literary work,’’ Thompson says, comparing it to his first book. ‘‘It’s still adventure, gritty, real things. But I decided to leave a fair bit up to the reader. T
"Too much interpretation is taken from the reader these days, too many opinions are pushed on people.
‘‘My book has more respect for the reader. People all around the world, in dictatorships, cracked-up states, lost countries .. A huge variety of people, they all have the urge to live freer than their societies will allow. It’s up to the reader to decide how they fit into that .. what’s life add up to in the end.’’
In between philosophical discussions about the purpose of government, the value of civil disobedience, the role of religion and the like, Thompson indulges in opium (in Iran and the US), marijuana and cocaine, drinks everything from Portland’s boutique beers, to Serbia’s home-made plum brandy to contraband vodka and wine in Iran, all with the locals, of course.
‘‘When in Rome ... do as the Romans do,’’ Thompson says.
‘‘I go for a month [to each location] and I see them and we get trust. I don’t agree, but I’m listening, so they open up. That’s what it takes. ... It takes time with people. There is something to respect about drinking with sources. It’s a respectable occupation. It may not suit people prone to alcoholism, but you train, get into the field and go hard.’’
There is constant personal danger in Iran, the fear of being detained. In Kosovo one of his travelling partners is seriously stabbed in a confrontation and Thompson steps in, surrounded by Albanian thugs (saving himself by yelling ‘‘Leave him! Get off him! I’m Australian! I’m f–––king Australian!’’)
For Thompson, it’s all about living life to the fullest.
‘‘I don’t take stupid risks. I take them a calculated way,’’ he says. ‘‘I don’t want to shy away from the world and its wildness.’’
He thinks everybody should pause to consider that concept.
‘‘Adventure is healthy. Sure, it’s injurious at times, put things under strain. So does long-term decline. The people I’m meeting, the spirit of the book: wake up and become who you are!’’