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Misha Glenny: McMafia is “not glamour for glamour's sake"

The author of McMafia says he hopes the BBC1 drama will raise awareness around organised crime

Published: Sunday, 4th February 2018 at 9:00 am

In the sumptuous world of McMafia, criminals jet around the world and hang out on luxury yachts, leading some to criticise the drama for glamourising organised crime. But Misha Glenny, the author of the book which inspired the series, argues that McMafia is “not glamour for glamour's sake".


Glenny’s 2008 non-fiction book of the same name is a forensic account of international organised crime and how it has spread since the end of the Cold War. Speaking at the Radio Times Covers Party on Tuesday night, Glenny explained that the series shows two sides of the coin: not just the glitz, but the “low life” too.

“What we’re doing is showing that the glamour is actually connected to really significant suffering for victims on the ground,” he said. “It’s glamour to expose the really terrible things that are going on in this world.”

From the trafficking of young women to brutal attacks on the innocent loved ones of criminals, like we saw in episode six, McMafia certainly doesn't shy away from the gritty reality of the criminal underworld.

Glenny, who worked with filmmakers to ensure the authenticity of his book was transferred to the screen, is thrilled with the series. Every Sunday when the show airs, he invites friends over for a McMafia party and serves fake caviar and vodka in honour of the drama.

The author also said that although his book had a significant impact on policy makers and was enjoyed by many criminals, what the show has succeeded in doing is to provoke a wider debate. Effectively, series star James Norton has made money laundering a hot topic.

“Just yesterday I was in Parliament talking to a select committee about anti-corruption issues… the place was packed out, obviously because everyone had come to see James Norton.

“But the fact is that everyone is now interested in hearing about this issue which is really fundamental to how we live our lives – and how we get ripped off, frankly, by people who want to evade tax or launder money through London.”


Time to dig out your caviar and vodka, because McMafia’s penultimate episode airs this Sunday.


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