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The Fifer and the fugitive: How John McAfee took author Mark Eglinton into his controversial world

Mark Eglinton and John McAfee.
Mark Eglinton and John McAfee.

John McAfee was the British-American tech genius whose antivirus software operates on millions of computers around the world.

He was also a globetrotting fugitive who described himself as a “lover of women, adventure and mystery” before his apparent suicide in a Spanish prison last summer.

So just how did he come to form an unlikely alliance with former St Andrews caddie-turned-author Mark Eglinton?

No Domain: The John McAfee Tapes lays bare the exclusive interviews Mark, 51, secured with the controversial tech pioneer.

The film and TV rights to the book have already been snapped up.

Fife author ‘meets’ global fugitive

Mark says: “I literally just direct messaged him on Twitter and said, ‘You’ve got to write a book’.

“He replied straight away and said, ‘Will it cost me anything?’ I said, ‘Well no, it won’t from me. All I need from you is, given I don’t know where you are, you are on the run in hiding, I need you to appear on Skype, face to face, and we need to have a conversation’.

John McAfee.

“He was a bit suspicious which I totally understand – he had good reason to be suspicious of a lot of people.

“He wanted to know that I was legitimate. I sent him some PDFs of my work and he came back and said, ‘I think you’re the guy’!”

‘There was John McAfee on my phone screen’

Mark will never forget the moment in October 2019 when, driving back from Edinburgh with his wife, his mobile phone rang and on came McAfee via Skype.

He smiles: “I literally hauled the car off the M90 at Kinross, pouring with rain on a Tuesday, and there was John McAfee on my phone screen saying, ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to do this?’

“And that’s how it began. It was nothing but pleasure for the whole time I spoke to him.

“And the purpose, just for clarity here, is that he wanted me to write his autobiography. We did all the conversations, we did the talks – we talked for days, weeks.

“They were very philosophical conversations about his life.”

This was no ordinary life – and Mark says McAfee shared his description-defying story “like it was his last will and testament”.

Conversations ranged from revelatory details on the abusive father who shot himself when McAfee was a young boy.

There was also the life-changing LSD overdose in St Louis, during which he was nearly convinced by voices in his head to try to kill his first wife and daughter.

Mark Eglinton’s book No Domain: The John McAfee Tapes.

He talked about the unexpected government clearance that led to him working on CIA dark programs and the combined affinity for mathematics and hallucinogens that informed the hedonistic nature of his software company in Silicon Valley.

McAfee went on to speak about his attempt to find a quiet life in Belize, only to become a pariah in the eyes of the local militia, from whom he’d later flee, claiming he had been framed for the murder of his neighbour, Gregory Faull.

He also talked of his subsequent years on the run in the US, evading a cast of pursuers, including the Sinaloa Cartel, while burying bags of money and valuables in marked locations around the South-West before fleeing the country on his yacht.

John McAfee and cryptocurrency

When it was time to take the story to publishers, McAfee’s larger-than-life circumstances became a problem.

He insisted on being paid in cryptocurrency only. Publishers, according to Mark, “are not at that point yet”.

He says: “We got pushed back to the point where the deal fell apart.

“He said, ‘If we can’t do that, this book does not fly. I just cannot deal in cash. There’s nowhere I can sign a contract. It’s just not going to work’.”

Mark was devastated. He let it sit for a while and “dug around” with publishers of his own.

Mark Eglinton at the Old Course in St Andrews.

Then, when one said they would be interested in a biography, Mark went back to McAfee to ask if he could use the hours of material for a book of his own.

He expected to be told to “get lost” but McAfee gave the project his seal of approval.

The result is No Domain: The John McAfee Tapes – a book that morphed from an autobiography co-written by Mark to a biography with their conversations at the heart of it.

Final contact before death of McAfee

Mark – who collaborated with England legend Michael Owen on his 2019 book Reboot: My Life, My Time – adds: “I didn’t know it at the time but he was in Spain at the time of the interviews, in a place that is known as the Bitcoin Hotel – the premises that was mining Bitcoin in the basement.

“No one knew he was there. Shortly after our last conversation, in September 2020, John was arrested in Spain and died in Spain in June 2021.

“In-between those times I had no direct conversation with him.

“The only dialogue I had with him was via his wife Janice who I relayed information about the book to.

“She relayed it to him and he came back and said, ‘I really look forward to reading it. I’ll 100% support you when the book comes out.’

“That was the last dialogue I ever had with John before he died.”

McAfee went on the run in 2012 after police in the Central American country of Belize named him a “person of interest” as they investigated Faull’s death.

He then returned to the US where he re-invented himself as the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the 2016 US presidential election.

It wasn’t long before the tech tycoon was on the run again, this time to avoid US authorities indicting him for tax evasion and fraud.

Arrested in Spain in October 2020, he was found dead in his jail cell eight months later and just hours after a court granted a US extradition request.

Mark finds it hard to believe McAfee committed suicide.

John was someone who only worked ever to fund having fun. John just wanted to live.”

Mark Eglinton

He says: “I was devastated when I heard about his death. I knew that ultimately he would be extradited.

“I also knew there was a big legal process on his behalf trying to stop it happening or at least delay it for a very long time.

“One of the things people don’t understand is, there was nothing imminent about John being extradited.

“It could have been a year, it could have been much longer until he was ever moved from Spain. I knew what could happen.

“But I couldn’t expect John would commit suicide. There was no hint that this was a guy ready to give up on life. His wife Janice didn’t think so, either.

“As for the conspiracy theories about what might have happened to him – was he killed?

“Might it have been something else?

“I just don’t know these things. All I can comment on is based on our conversations. This was a guy who had a lot of life force left!”

‘He had a real zest for life’

Mark has heard McAfee described as a “king of misinformation” and is certain he “did enjoy putting stuff out there to self-promote and confuse”.

He also thinks, however, that McAfee was “misunderstood” and that his book contains “the most honest account that exists”.

He says: “Unlike a Bill Gates or someone else in big business who makes a lot of money and stays in that business, John was somebody who never really wanted to be a high-flying executive or anything like that. He never wanted that life.

“John was someone who only worked ever to fund having fun. John just wanted to live.

“He had a real zest for life. But I think he’s also somebody who pushed against the general belief of what a wealthy executive should be.

“He didn’t want that life. He wanted to push away from it.”

Mark – who pursued his writing dream following his father’s death nearly two decades ago – adds: “But John was just one of these complete and total mavericks. He was extremely charismatic. He was extremely wise and very funny.

“I followed the latter years of his life when he ended up down in Belize in 2008-2012 and got into a lot of trouble down there.

“He’d flown to Belize, gone back to the US and gone on the run on a yacht.

“It all sounded very glamorous. But it was anything but glamorous.”

No Domain: The John McAfee Tapes, by Mark Eglinton, is published by Post Hill Press