September 16, 2022
In loving memory ~
Mark Nykanen, an award-winning journalist, novelist, and political activist, died Sept. 16 near his home in Victoria after a heart attack. He was 70 years old.
Born and raised in the United States, Nykanen emigrated with his family to Canada in 2003 in protest of American political policy, a journeychronicled by CNN and the British newspaper The Guardian.
In the 1980s, Nykanen's work as a correspondent for NBC News—investigating dangerous pesticides, medical malpractice in the military, a right-wing political cult, and international child sex abuse rings—earned four Emmy awards, among other prizes.
In 1992, Nykanen served as press secretary to presidential candidate Jerry Brown, a left-leaning Democrat challenging then-Governor Bill Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination.
Nykanen's literary career began in 1998 with publication of his novel Hush, about a homicidal child abuser. Six more novels followed, four under his own name, two under the pseudonym James Jaros. His thrillers have been translated into French, German, Italian, Czech, Dutch, Russian, and Mandarin.
Mark Nykanen was born in New York City in 1951. He moved with his family to Arizona at age 15, after his father, a firefighter, was injured on the job.
In the 1970s, he began his career as an investigative reporter for Phoenix's alternative weekly newspaper, New Times. His undercover exposé of Arizona penitentiary's system led authorities to censor his reporting from inmates and ban him from its prison. He subsequently was news director at KDKB-FM radio in Phoenix and then news anchor for the Phoenix PBS television affiliate KAET, where his exposé of the state tax office forced the resignation of its top officials.
In 1980, Nykanen was hired as an investigative correspondent for NBC News, based in Chicago. His reporting assignments took him all over the world. In Germany, he traced the Nazi background of spies hired by the CIA in the aftermath of World War II. In Guatemala, he investigated human rights abuses carried out by the country's US-backed military. In Holland, he posed as a child pornographer to get hidden camera footage documenting the sex industry's underground printing and distribution network. The resulting documentary, "The Silent Shame," was called "first-rate" by the New York Times and "a landmark in broadcast journalism" by the Chicago Tribune.
Nykanen's television broadcasts were known for their hard-hitting reporting, evocative writing, and aggressive confrontational interviews. His novels were fast-paced thrillers, mostly focused on serial killers or climate apocalypse. Besides Hush, they included Search Angel, the Bone Parade, Primitive, Striking Back, Burn Down the Sky, and Carry the Flame.
In 2020, Nykanen began producing video reports on the climate change crisis and blockades to save ancient trees in Vancouver Island's Fairy Creek for XRTV-Victoria, the YouTube channel of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion. He was also active in the group's non-violent civil disobedience, and was arrested after a 2020 protest outside the house of BC Premier John Horgan.
Nykanen is survived by his wife, Lucinda Taylor, a Victoria psychotherapist and counselor, their daughter, Anika Nykanen, four sisters, and a brother.
Donations in his honor may be made to Yintah Access, or the Environmental Defense Fund.