Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A Christmas Carol

Dedicated to the corporate Scrooges who have hijacked much of the book trade.

Deck the shelves with celebrity folly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season when booksellers are jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Returns are what we publishers will reap,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See their greedy grins before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Strike the tills and join the chorus,
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Hail the age of commodification,
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Driving poor publishers to starvation,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Gert - Publicist

Friday, 14 December 2007

Editors — A Breed Apart…

We may walk upright, require three square meals a day and bear a striking physical resemblance to our fellow mankind, but don’t be fooled by these superficial attributes, editors are, in my opinion, a breed apart.

I’m not suggesting that we are superheroes, or freaks of nature, or anything like that, but we do possess certain traits that tend to attract funny glances from our peers and have the potential to empty a room in record-breaking time. It is a basic prerequisite of a job as an editor that you are at least a little neurotic; the misplacement of a comma or the omission of a full stop can assume an Armageddon-like magnitude capable of reducing even the strongest of editors to a blubbering mess. But it is these finer details that have the power to transform a good piece of writing into a masterpiece.

These neuroses can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand the gnawing terror of putting a comma wrong, if you’ll pardon the pun, is what makes us good at our jobs. But on the other hand, there is only so much time you can spend deliberating over the capitalisation of a certain word, or trying to decipher an anagram-like sentence, before you begin to feel like shaking your fist at the tedium of it all. But that’s only on the rare bad days. Mostly editors take great pleasure in correcting punctuation and tweaking the flow of language—with each uncovered error feeling like a small personal triumph. Sadly this sense of triumph is lost on many of our peers. I have been known to point out errors in restaurant menus when dining with friends, proudly indicating where a double space has accidentally been inserted between words, or an apostrophe has been misplaced—which completely changes the meaning of the word, or so I try and explain to my completely disinterested dinner guests. A long silence usually ensues, with conversation struggling to recover from the blow I have apparently just dealt it. Perhaps such details may seem trivial to many but that is exactly why editors are so important. If we didn’t lie awake pondering the great mysteries and complexities of language, then who would?

The saying, ‘Behind every great man, there is a great woman’, applies in equal measure to authors and their editors. Next to a pen and paper (or a laptop rather), an editor is oftentimes an author’s most valuable tool. Editors are the mechanics of language—undervalued linguaphiles whose mission in life is to add oil to creaky joints and bring a body of text to life.

- Bridgette, Editor

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Word Made Flesh

There is a book on my shelves that I have never read but will never throw out. It is a schoolbook edition of Silas Marner from the early part of the 20th century. I’d already read the story in my own textbook by the time I acquired it, and had no especial fondness for the characters. Nevertheless, I had to have this book. The cloth of its hardback cover is worn to a delightful softness, and the weight of the book is perfectly proportioned to its size. I still sometimes take the book from the shelves just to let it rest in my hand. Then I might open the book and finger the slightly yellowed pages, imagining that all its readers have handled it this tenderly (though knowing what I do of school children, I doubt this to be the case). Silas Marner was the first book I loved purely for its physicality.

With this in mind I read of the projected success of ebook readers like Kindle and iLiad, and I can only give a noncommittal shrug. As a fairly frequent traveller (who can never remember to redeem her miles), I can imagine the advantages of packing a whole library in the space of just one book. What I can’t imagine is reading The Hobbit via anything other than my 1960s edition with Tolkien smoking a pipe on the back and a thumb-sized tear on the front cover, exactly where my thumb goes when I open the book.

Isn’t a book an incarnated idea—‘the word made flesh to dwell among us’? And shouldn’t that flesh be clothed appropriately? No tawdry covers for my favourite books, please. Make them like my copy of The Grass is Singing, its white cover interrupted with a few spikey blades of grass, looking ever so grassy, I could swear they really were singing. Let the pages be grainy and inviting and not too white, and most of all let the text be worthy of its trappings.

For all my friends this Christmas, and for you, I wish good stories, wrapped in suitable covers, that feel just right in your hands.
- Jessica, Editor

Friday, 7 December 2007

A brief encounter

Author Nicola Pierce on meeting the subject of her new book:

The first thing that struck me about Bua was how young she looked — about ten years younger than her actual age. I met her at the office of Maverick House Publishers in Bangkok where she arrives every evening at 7pm to be interviewed by Pornchai, the Thai researcher and editor. She stays for an hour, after first clocking in, and then must go to Patpong to get ready for the evening’s work. However, if a client needs her at 7pm she attends to him, cancelling us at the last minute, as he is her priority.
She’s tiny, with big brown eyes, prominent cheekbones, shoulder-length brown hair and has the most beautiful smile. Always shy at first it takes her a while to get going but once she does she is ready to laugh softly and make self-deprecating remarks about herself and her life. Not that there’s much to laugh about. She’s the mother of three children, the common-law wife of an unemployed wife-beater and a go-go dancer — she also needs to sell her body, at the very least, once a week to supplement her monthly income. It’s alright for me to sit there and stare at her, wondering how she does it but she doesn’t have the luxury of wondering, she just has to get on with it.
There are people ready here to help her do something else but she’s not ready yet to make a plan. The husband hasn’t beaten her in two months because she pretended that she rang a women’s centre who will take her and the kids away to a secret place if he hits her again. Last night she turned up with a badly bruised upper lip and started to cry when Pornchai asked her about it. I assumed it was the husband but no, she was beaten up in Patpong by a mafia-woman she borrowed money from a few years reviously. The woman’s henchmen surrounded the scene to prevent two western men, or anyone else, from intervening.
Pornchai took me to the bar where she worked. It was 10pm on a hot Wednesday night and we had to weave our way in and out of the crowds of tourists and hawkers selling their wares. There are also the noisy hustlers waving their price lists to entice you into their bar, promising sex shows and cheap drink. These shows take place upstairs and are performed by the less than perfect looking girls – once the girls begins to sag or put on weight they are demoted to the sex shows which they can’t afford to refuse or else they are simply fired. Bua works downstairs and talks vaguely about getting out of the industry before she gets too old.
Entering the bar was like crashing a party that was waiting to get started. The atmosphere was full of anticipation and there weren’t many customers yet. Really bad, and too loud, dance music greets you before you’re over the threshold. Immediately you’re warmly greeted by a waitress who leads you to a table to take your order. When Pornchai tried to ask for a soft drink he was effortlessly persuaded to buy a more expensive beverage. She checked back with us every few minutes, with the pretence of wiping down the table, picking up our bottles to see how much we had left and whether it was time to ‘suggest’ we buy another one. It was the friendliest place I’ve been in since my arrival in Bangkok, everywhere you looked a staff member was beaming in our direction as if they had been waiting especially for us. Of course when it became apparent that we were going to sit over one drink and just look at the girls without wanting to buy one the smiles dimmed just a little.
The narrow stage is surrounded by the bar which takes up most of the room. There’s no doubt about it the girls are absolutely gorgeous. About 30 or so young, slim, bikini-clad girls moved monotonously from side to side, alternating between hugging their steel poles and just holding them. Even if they wanted to dance properly there isn’t enough room, so they give up trying and simply stand there waiting to attract a buyer. In fact, some girls were sitting by the wall, moodily staring at the stage, waiting until some space was freed up. I was surprised to see one tall girl wearing a pair of glasses but you have to be able to see if a man is looking at you in particular in order to approach him at the break to either seduce him into buying lots of drinks – or just plain seduce him. You are constantly in competition with the other beauties beside you.
I’m not going to waste time here talking about my opinion of the sex industry. I hated it — no surprise there — but this is Bua’s book. She was delighted to see us and came over to clink our beer bottles, welcoming me, with some pride, to where she worked and introducing me to her best friend. She was a little drunk as she needs to drink to be confident enough to get up on stage. The make-up made her look even younger again. I have to say that nobody looked like they hated what they were doing. The girls appear to be great friends and greeted each other fondly, grabbing a few minutes of excited chat when the mamasan’s (the manager) back was turned. We could have been in a staff canteen anywhere except that most of them looked too young to be working. Two or three descended on a couple of middle-aged Japanese guys and they looked to be having a great laugh with one another in between massaging and flirting with the men. About ten minutes later the guys left with one of the girls, she was dressed in her own clothes and no longer smiling and laughing. The light seemed to go out of their eyes once a man had made his choice. Two tables down from us a girl was having her bare back stroked by a guy who was probably 30 years older than her. Bua’s colleagues melted away to find someone else and she was left staring into space, looking neither right nor left. The fun part was over. Bua was now on the stage and could see I wasn’t comfortable, I caught her eye and she shrugged as if to say, ‘Welcome to my world.’

- Miss Bangkok by Bua Boonmee and Nicola Pierce will be published by Maverick House in Asia (December 2007) and in Ireland and the United Kingdom (January 2008).

Friday, 30 November 2007

The role of books in our school curriculum

At school we are only expected to read a novel for the exams. Our class read To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. This was so we could learn the importance of racial equality.

In second year we also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. This book really got people in my class reading as it was funny, interesting and well written. Everyone enjoyed reading it.

However, there are not enough books in school to promote reading. The only book that’s on the course is the one for the actual exam, and it tends to be very academic, even boring.

I think that more books like Heroin (Maverick House, 2006) should be used in my school and other schools across the country. They should give us books that we can enjoy reading and can learn something from.

This year I’m in Transition Year and there is more free time, both during and after school, to read. My year head told our class to bring our own books to read when we have a free class. This is a great opportunity to get pupils reading. However, I appear to be the only one grasping the opportunity. Is this because most of my class mates were never really encouraged to read in the first place?

Perhaps, if it had been done earlier there would be more of us reading today. Even so, I think there is still a chance. By introducing more exciting, interesting, closer-to-home books, such as Heroin, the numbers of teenagers reading will rise. This way we will both be encouraged to read and to stay off drugs.

by Rebecca-Rose (15), Ireland

Friday, 23 November 2007

My experience with the Mavericks

Ever since I was seven I knew I wanted to be an author. It started when my mother was reading a magazine and I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. And suddenly, after seven years of illiteracy, I read out the whole article word perfect, and found out that I had a reading ability of a 12-year-old. After that I spent day and night thinking up stories in my head, and I still do till this day…..

So, nine years later, when I found out that I got into Transition Year, and would be doing work experience, I knew I wanted to do something to do with writing or books. So when Mom told me that she knew someone who owns a publishing company and asked me if I wanted to do work experience there, I instantly said yes.

So here I am on my last day with Maverick House Publishers. I really enjoyed my time here and really felt part of the team, instead of just a third wheel. I thought that everyone was friendly and made me feel welcome. Everybody took the time out to teach me as much as they could about publishing. This really meant a lot to me as they probably had better things to do than teaching a teenager. It was much appreciated.

I now feel that I can be a better writer after all the tips they have given me, even if only in English class.

I don’t know if I will actually take up publishing, or even writing, but this experience was still invaluable. I hope I will be able to take everything I have learnt from here and really apply it to my writing.

So thank you to everyone at Maverick House for putting up with me and giving me this fantastic opportunity. You have all been great; every moment was a pleasure and I will miss you all.

Thank you once again,

Rebecca-Rose Santamaria

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Musings from a book fair

Frankfurt Book Fair (2007) - After days of trying to keep up as our editorial director wheeled and dealed with distributors, publishers and sales agents from around the world, I finally got a chance to explore some of the thousands of exhibitions at the world’s biggest book fair.

I stumbled across a hall reserved exclusively for children’s books, and I was amazed by the extravaganza of colour, gimmicks and packaging on display.

Under the influence of coffee and orange juice (or should I say kaffee and orangesaft), my bitter inner child awoke as he realised how deprived he had been. I don’t remember my middle-class parents spending a baht on fancy activity books with stickers, magnets and sound effects; they only bought textbooks for school.

Yes, they did value education; however, to them, education did not include fun or bright packaging.

The hall was full of adults making deals and drinking wine in the fairy-tale setting. Standing there made me realise, business and profit aside, how important books are in shaping young minds, and I was particularly pleased to come across a book about a young girl named Camille, whose series of illustrated tales were a language unknown to me. From what I could gather, the book recounts how she befriends a black classmate, playing seesaw with him. In return for her hospitality, the boy offers Camille a candy. A lovely little story, isn’t it?

Perhaps children’s books shouldn’t be called children’s books, but rather books produced by adults for children. Then again, it is our obligation to teach children new things we weren’t taught when we were young, for the world is ever changing. (Perhaps the next mum-and-cub polar bear tale should include a thing or two about the effects of global warming?)

In contrast to the happy-go-lucky themes found in children’s books, most grown-up books are damn serious: genocide, wa, etc. Plus their pages are full of small letters. Boriiiing!

The contrast between adult’s books and children’s made me wonder: if everyone had read Camille’s story, would the world be a better place by now? I believe books are meant to educate readers’ souls and minds. How do we then go from decades to centuries without any real progress? The world seems to be a darker place with each passing day. After who-knows-how many years of passing on our mistakes and virtues from generation to generation through literature, shouldn’t we be making progress? Or are we just innately violent and cruel, no matter how many books we read?

-Pornchai S

Friday, 26 October 2007

Misery ink

Danuta Kean’s stinging attack on the publishers of so-called ‘misery memoirs' (Daily Mail, 10 November) reeks of hypocrisy. Surely, even she must see the incredibly irony in launching this quixotic attack against ‘sensationalism’ from her lofty moral high-ground at the Daily Mail – a paper often criticised for it’s bigoted agenda.

Kean writes:

'Rather than inspire, [misery memoirs] risk titillating with the intimate detail they provide: members of religious cults rape young girls, fathers rape sons. '

Perhaps, Kean would like to confine subjects such as child abuse to the closet?

Had she done her homework, she would also know that 'inspirational memoirs', are mostly read by women, and often people who have suffered abuse or domestic violence themselves.

The world is an ugly place, Danuta...

Let us know what you think?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

A strange, strange land...

The author of Farang, Dr Iain Corness, chats to Thailand's PM TV about a reincarnated squid, his date with a fortune teller and one of the few countries where you can still get run over by a shop!

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Monday, 3 September 2007

Confessions of a maverick

"Do engineering," said my school careers officer – so I enrolled for Medicine. I was 17 years old and that young man was already showing signs of being a maverick.

In my third year we were given ID cards stamped with "to be carried at all times on University property," so I tore mine up. When questioned by the Dean I replied simply "I know who I am, so I don't need one." Being a maverick earned me a severe reprimand, but I didn't carry an ID card for the rest of the course.

Returning from the UK to Australia with my shiny new medical degree I immediately went motor racing. "Son, doctors don't go motor racing," said my father. "Sorry, Dad, but this one does."

My refusal to fit into the accepted mold has seen me open a photography studio and score a contract to do the Australian equivalent of the famed Pirelli calendar. That maverick nature had me open up the first Thai fast food restaurant in Brisbane, and import a Tuk-Tuk from Bangkok as a promo item. Of course I also drove it to my medical practice as well. The patients loved it. The police did not. If it were a car, where were the seat belts? "Attached to the canvas roof? Come on, officer." If it were a motorcycle, where was my helmet? "At home."

A maverick never conforms.

So it was not by accident that I tentatively sent my outline for a book to publishers called Maverick House. One maverick can recognize another. In fact a house full of mavericks.
So for all the mavericks out there, do whatever you want to be doing. And resist all attempts at classifying you. Me? I'm just an ordinary doctor who races cars, photographs ladies and oversees a damn fine Tom Yum Goong!

- Dr Ian Corness, auhor of Farang: Thailand through the eyes of an ex-pat

Friday, 24 August 2007

Trapped in No-Man's-Land

I am Paula Grieg. I have three children and no stretchmarks. Therein lies the story of my life; a life of inner conflicts and contradictions. My early life, childhood and adolescence were spent in Germany, a country to which I am now bound only by memories, since almost all my family there have vanished.

Before I reluctantly left Germany for a new life in Ireland, I first became aware of my gender ambiguity, though at the time I had no clear idea what this meant or where it would lead. In Ireland I fell in love, married and started a family; those same dearly loved three children. My career took off and I built an existence. Those who looked on might have thought I had it all, but everything I built always stood on shaky foundations, because at the very heart of it I was not who I seemed to be.

Progressively I realised that I needed to acknowledge my true self or I would never find peace within myself. But that personal inner peace came at a high price—the disintegration of family, the loss of friends, home, career and status, and once more, emigration.

Both my career and my thirst for knowledge of other places and other peoples have led me through five continents and more than 50 countries. They have given me a broad and tolerant outlook on diversity in every sense, while my life in two genders has given me unusual personal insights available to few. But it is also true that the more I travelled, the more I have become displaced and lost all sense of home.

My biography No-Man's-Land is the telling of an unusual story, the writing of which helped me to make sense of my life and the telling of which will hopefully help to reduce barriers by helping others to understand the challenges faced by transsexuals and to realise that transsexuals can and do lead normal lives.

I remain hopeful though that there is another chapter yet to be written, entitled, ‘The Leaving of No-Man’s-Land,’ where through finding love once more I will also find that elusive sense of home and belonging, and can then look back at my life with a new perspective.

- Paula Grieg

Friday, 17 August 2007

Blood in the sand

As we stood together in Darfur’s golden sand, the stark reality hit us squarely over the head: the Sahara is rolling slowly southward. The desert is advancing, rendering access to basic resources such as land and water a matter of life or death. If you have access to those resourcesor the support of those in political power, you survive. When there is no democracy, no peaceful way of accessing power, then in Sudan, as in so many other places around the world,
people pick up guns to win back their rights.In Darfur, the government of Sudan armed that country’s far deadlier version of the Ku Klux Klan, the Janjaweed, a mixed bag of bandits and racist ideologues whose ethnic cleansing of all non-Arab people is mostly motivated by the desire to take over land and steal livestock. John has talked with young Janjaweed recruits. They felt they had no economic alternative. These were the same feelings of the young members of the militias that committed the genocide in Rwanda. Cynical leaders can exploit economic destitution and desperation, and like macabre, racist piedpipers lead people right over the moral cliff.Since achieving independence from Great Britain in 1956, Sudan has been a country at war with itself. The genocide in Darfur is only the latest in a series of horrific conflicts. Sudan’s civil wars unfold in a depressingly familiar pattern. The Khartoum government’s counterinsurgency strategy has nearly always begun with killing and displacement on a massive scale. When the international community starts to take notice and the spotlight shines on government atrocities, the regime then scales back the military assault and the chess game begins. They manipulate ethnic dynamics, sowing internal divisions within the opposition. They manipulateAmerican, European, and African diplomats, buying time through disingenuous negotiation to gain the upper hand on the battlefield. And they manipulate humanitarian assistance, hiding behind the iron curtain of state sovereignty to deny humanitarians access to territory where vulnerable civilians need help.The ruling National Islamic Front (known today as the National Congress Party) has taken state-sponsored brutality to extraordinary levels, but the systematic hoarding of wealth and power by elites in Khartoum and the endless violent campaign to silence a deprived and angry population have deep historical roots.
- Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, authors of Not on Our Watch

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Genocide in slow-motion

Genocide is unique among ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘mass atrocity crimes’ because it targets, in whole or in part, a specific racial, religious, national, or ethnic group
for extinction. According to the international convention, genocide can include any of the following five criteria targeted at the groups listed above:

• killing
• causing serious bodily or mental harm
• deliberately inflicting ‘conditions of life calculated
to bring about its physical destruction in whole or
in part’
• imposing measures to prevent births
• forcibly transferring children from a targeted

The perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda took 100 days to exterminate 800,000 lives. This was the fastest rate of targeted mass killing in human history, three times faster
than that of the Holocaust.

In mid-2004, one year into the fighting and six months before the trip Don and I took to Chad/Darfur, I went with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Samantha Power to the rebel areas in Darfur. Samantha was a journalist in Bosnia during the horrors of that war, and her frustration with the failure of the United States to lead a strong international response to the atrocities being committed compelled her to research and write a book about America’s response to genocides throughout the 20th century. Her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002), won the Pulitzer Prize. Samantha showed that time and again US leaders were aware that crimes against humanity were occurring but failed to take action. After she and I travelled to Darfur in 2004, Samantha wrote an article for the New Yorker magazine that won the National Magazine Award for reporting in 2005. At the same time, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was visiting government-held areas in the region. But unlike Secretary Powell, Samantha and I went to the part of Sudan that the regime didn’t want anyone to see, and for very good reason.
Before the genocide, Darfur was one of the poorest regions of Sudan, and the Saharan climate made eking out a living an extreme challenge. But these difficulties only made Darfurians hardier and more self-reliant, mixing farming and livestock rearing in a complex strategy of survival that involved migration, inter-communal trade, and resource sharing.
It had been over a year since the genocide began, so Samantha and I expected certain evidence of mass destruction. And we were indeed witness to burned villages where livestock, homes, and grain stocks had been utterly destroyed, confirming stories we had heard from Darfurians at refugee camps in Chad.
Yet no amount of time in Sudan or work on genocide ever prepares anyone sufficiently for
what Samantha and I saw in a ravine deep in the Darfur desert—bodies of nearly two dozen youngn men lined up in ditches, eerily preserved by the 130-degree desert heat. One month before, they had been civilians, forced to walk up a hill to be executed by Sudanese government forces. Harrowingly, this scene was repeated throughout the targeted areas of Darfur.We heard more refugees in Chad describe family and friends being stuffed into wells by the Janjaweed in a twisted and successful attempt to poison the water supply. When we searched for these wells in Darfur, we found them in the exact locations described. The only difference was now these wells were covered in sand in an effort to cover the perpetrators’ bloody tracks. With each subsequent trip to Darfur, I have found the sands of the Saharan Desert slowly swallowing more of the evidence of the 21st century’s first genocide.

To us, Darfur has been Rwanda in slow motion. Perhaps 400,000 have died during three and a half years of slaughter, over 2.25 million have been rendered homeless, and, in a particularly gruesome subplot, thousands of women have been systematically raped. During 2006, the genocide began to metastasise, spreading across the border into Chad, where Chadian
villagers (and Darfurian refugees) have been butchered and even more women raped by marauding militias supported by the Sudanese government. Sadly, the international response has also unfolded in slow motion. With crimes against humanity like the genocide in Darfur, the caring world is inevitably in a deadly race with time to save and protect as many lives as possible.

In autumn 2004, after his visit to Sudan, Secretary Powell officially invoked the term ‘genocide’. He was followed shortly thereafter by President Bush.5 This represented the
first time an ongoing genocide was called its rightful name by a sitting US president. And yet in Darfur, as in most of these crises, the international community, including the United States, responded principally by calling for ceasefires and sending humanitarian aid. These are important gestures to be sure, but they do not stop the killing. We believe it is our collective responsibility to resanctify the sacred post-Holocaust phrase ‘Never Again’— to make it something meaningful and vital. Not just for the genocide that is unfolding today in Darfur, but also for the next attempted genocide or cases of mass atrocities. And there are other cases, to be sure. Right now, we need to do all we can for the people of northern Uganda, of Somalia, and of Congo. Though genocide is not being perpetrated in these countries, horrible abuses of human rights are occurring, in some ways comparable to those in Darfur. Militias are targeting civilians, rape is used as a tool of war, and life-saving aid is obstructed or stolen by warring parties. Furthermore, by the time you pick up this book, another part of the world could have caught on fire, and crimes against humanity may be being perpetrated. We need to do all we can to
organise ourselves to uphold international human rights law and to prevent these most heinous crimes from ever occurring.

That is our challenge!

John Prendergast & Don Cheadle

Authors of Not on Our Watch

Friday, 27 July 2007

A taste for murder

A brutal murder, a cryptic note concealed in the victim’s coffin, a secret lover, a callous killer obsessed with re-enacting his horrific crime – it resembles a plot straight from the pages of the latest PD James novel. However, these are bizarre elements from a real murder trial that has captured the public imagination.

The murder of Rachel O’Reilly, a 30 year-old mother-of-two from Dublin, stunned the small, trusting community where she lived, and devastated her close-knit family. In the days following the discovery of her battered body in 2004, it was thought that Rachel was the victim of a bungled robbery attempt. It soon emerged, however, that police investigating the case believed Rachel had known her killer and that her murder had been carefully planned months in advance.

The spotlight immediately fell upon Rachel’s husband, Joe O’Reilly, who admitted in a number of extraordinary press interviews that he was a prime suspect in his wife’s slaying. The 32-year-old advertising executive vehemently denied any involvement.

A media frenzy ensued and the investigation took several bizarre turns, culminating in Joe O’Reilly’s conviction on Saturday, 21 July. It was a crime that captured the public imagination. We watched as the illusion of the idyllic suburban life the couple shared together began to shatter and the details of O'Reilly’s heinous crime immerged.

Public fascination with violent crime, particularly murder, has a long history. The so called ‘Red Barn murder’ is one of the best documented crimes in history, and it marks the beginning of a widespread public interest in murder trials.

In 1824, village beauty Maria Martin’s body was discovered in a shallow grave in a barn near Polstead in Suffolk, England. Her lover William Corder was arrested for the murder, brought to trial and executed at Bury St Edmunds in August 1828. That much is historical fact, but even before the trial the elements of the crime were being sensationalized. As the 19th century progressed new elements were grafted onto the story.

While Corder was still in custody plays were being performed before eager audiences. Ballard singers were performing songs connected with the murder. After the widespread press coverage thousands of visitors made a pilgrimage to the barn - over 200,000 during the summer of 1828 alone! Many took pieces of the barn as souvenirs. It was said that the barn's owner was so irritated that she threatened to have it demolished. It stood, however, until 1842, when an arsonist burnt it down during a period of agricultural unrest. The only known remaining relics are a wooden shoe-shaped snuff box and an iron stay from the barn doors (both now in private collections).

Maria's grave also suffered at the hands of souvenir hunters. After the inquest of 1827 her body was laid to rest in Polstead Churchyard, but was exhumed and used as an exhibit at Corder's trial. Even after she had been returned to her grave, Maria was not left in peace. Large numbers of visitors took away chips of the headstone as souvenirs until it completely disappeared. Nowadays the only indication of the grave is a wooden plaque nailed to a shed at the side of Polstead Church.

The legacy of the 'Red Barn Murder' lives on today – Murder in the Red Barn was the tile of a song of Tom Waits’ 1992 album Bone Machine – and the public’s interest in sensational murders remain unabated.

Perhaps, our fascination with murder reflects our own fears? After all, the sudden, unnatural death of others forces us to confront our own mortality. May it be, that through the killer, we get a terrifying glimpse at the darkest corners of our own psyches?

The Suspect: The Killing of Rachel O’Reilly, by Mail on Sunday journalist Jenny Friel will be published by Maverick House in September.

– Gert Ackermann, Publicist

Monday, 23 July 2007

Chasing the Tiger's Tail

Authors Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin comment on the arduous process of researching Kill the Tiger: Operation Rimau and the Battle for Southeast Asia.

DURING OUR collaboration on The Battle of Brisbane we became thoroughly familiar with the war in the Pacific up to the end of 1942. This formed the background to the drama detailed in that book. We also learned of some of the behind-the-lines activities of the Allied Special Forces.

We knew, for example, of the adventures of the Krait when a commando team sailed the old scow from Australia far into hostile territory to attack Singapore Harbour in 1943. But the Rimau Raid of 1944—in which many of the same personnel participated—first came to our attention when Peter received a letter from his friend John Parker, chronicler of the Special Boat Service. It contained some intriguing research material—compiled by an enthusiastic amateur—and John suggested there was a cracking story to be told. Peter brought it to Australia from his London base during the launch of The Battle of Brisbane. And since there was a rare chance for us to work in physical proximity—Robert being based in Canberra—we made a number of forays at the Australian War Memorial. We were soon chasing a range of fascinating leads.

Rimau had a publishing history. Some excellent groundwork had been done, particularly by Tom Hall of Sydney, to retrace the steps of the raiders. But we were utterly unprepared for the new material that we were able to uncover as gradually we found ourselves dealing with the most ambitious and heroic commando operation of the Pacific War.

Moreover, at a crucial point in our investigation we lucked upon a document which laid bare the determination of the highest levels of the British Establishment to develop and deploy Operation Rimau at all cost. Suddenly much of the obfuscation which for half a century had puzzled and frustrated researchers was swept away.

And as we followed the brave men of Rimau on their extraordinary mission we became ever more conscious of the dark and terrible forces drawn into the unfolding saga. We were also extraordinarily fortunate to discover two people for whom the events of Rimau in 1944 and 1945 still reverberate— Clive Lyon in England and Roma Page in Australia. They became our guides and our companions as we strove to lay bare the story beneath the story.
We, like all who have been touched by this heroic episode amid the horror of war, are greatly in their debt.

Peter Thompson & Robert Macklin

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Love heals all that it touches

Bound to a wheelchair, missing copious amounts of his teeth, ironically the few that remain look desperately lacking, struggling to place his useless leg upon the foot piece of his all too familiar wheelchair, Dten forces a crooked smile resembling that of a stroke victim.
Dten, a southern Thai Moslem, orphaned as a young boy by a well-off family due to the mother’s hasty departure to be with her lover, still smiles. He was crippled by an accident that took four lives in his mid-twenties, yet he still smiles.
It’s hard work to smile, yet he works conscientiously to achieve this feat. He has no bathroom to relieve himself, but he still smiles as his 80-year-old adoptive grandmother collects his morning waste in a plastic bag to dispose of into the dirty slum in which they inhabit some ignoble lean-to. He smiles as he pushes his wheelchair that has been long missing the rubber to run its wheels smoothly. He smiles and concentrates as he gives it his all to push the cumbersome chair backwards for he has no strength to push it forward all in an attempt to gather some water in a cheap plastic bucket to wash with.
Widowed Granny, cloaked in the inexpensive Islamic dress of those who suffer poverty along with her elderly daughter smile also in great humility thinking nothing of looking after someone they have no obligation to help. Concerned only for his welfare after Granny dies, she prays for a way to solve their dilemma. She prays, smiles, laughs and cries secret tears.
An unassuming figure dressed in a yellow head dress notices something amongst the movement of daily life all familiar within the slum. She is trained to. She is a volunteer working alongside the dedicated staff at the Lagnu hospital in Satun—which is not a planet by the way, it so happens to be the name of the province. Here Buddhists, Muslims, highly educated doctors and uneducated peasants work side by side to make life better for the surrounding communities rife with HIV, disabilities and poverty. She spots him; she deftly secures the needed information that spurs the hospital into action.
The hospital team seek him out, surprised to discover that he has been unable to walk for five years mainly due to fear of failure, not knowing where to start and utter helplessness.
The beautiful nurses, the dedicated peasant volunteer and his ‘family’ all get behind him to work towards mobility. The slum comes out to watch.
His large framed body is a contradiction to his disability. But he must work at rebuilding his useless leg and arm; he does so amidst cheers and through pure determination for weeks on end.
Then appears a walker, he timidly looks at it, holds his breath, is forced to his feet and takes his first steps in half a decade. The community is astonished. He is jubilant.
Faith is born, he studies daily and is about to complete grade six so that he can find some time of work. While still confined to a wheelchair for the most part, he is ambulatory to a degree and he has spirit to keep on fighting.
Today, he came to the hospital where I was invited to view the local projects, inspire and share some ideas with staff and volunteers. He spoke his piece—through contorted facial expressions but ever so poignant. He said how grateful he was that he was not forgotten. He was given public recognition, media coverage, donations and clothing and last of all and
the only thing that I could offer him, a touch of love, a tight hug, a huge kiss and words of admiration for his wondrous bravery and commented on his bright handsome face.
He beamed as he came to life. “ Handsome? Me? Handsome?” His face registered quizzically and as fast as the thought came, he responded with how beautiful I was in English. We all laughed, cried and hugged. It still always amazes me how such a small deed of love can have such an incredible impact!
He is under continuous care, he will do better and not only that I contacted a large TV program here who promised to look into doing a feature on him and hopefully bring assistance to his poverty stricken conditions. After all, if anyone deserves the help, he and his family do.
It was great to be a part of many folk’s efforts to make a difference to just one important soul.
Cultural and religious gulfs were bridged in a very troubled area by love and with this miracle came new beginnings for me.
New beginnings indeed as I have been invited to assist the Hospital Accreditation Institute under the Ministry of Health with their new pilot project as a volunteer and advisor. “JIT ASAR” the name of the project means Humanized Care and that is just what this project embodies.
We will be working with a team of six accredited hospitals from every corner of Thailand combined with doctors, nurses and other health officials from the Institute. Together we will inspect and critique the “Loving Hands” projects of the six hospitals and then convene a workshop to analyze and summarize our findings. These findings will be put together in a workable format for 200 hospitals nationwide to implement.
I am very excited as I see it a great opportunity to Change the World with Love! Also it fits perfectly with another project that I am starting at The Central Chest and Lung Hospital here in Nonthaburi through teaching the staff English and visiting HIV and Cancer Patients.
Additionally, I plan to continue carrying out any other care-giving projects that frequently comes my way, as well as the weekly visits to Bang Kwang Prison and the Women’s Shelter to encourage the women, children and HIV positive patients residing there.
Love is great but don’t wait to catch it, be a carrier and pass it on to as many as possible.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Renowned actor Don Cheadle talks about his forthcoming book

Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond is the critically acclaimed book by American actor Don Cheadle and renown human-rights activist John Prendergast.

Cheadle first became aware of the conflict in Darfur while filming Hotel Rwanda. Shocked and energized by the scale of the emerging crisis, he set about raising awareness of the Darfur conflict with John Prendergast, a former advisor to Bill Clinton.

The authors have travelled to the refugee camps of Sudan and Chad to pay witness to the unfolding tragedy which has claimed the lives of 250,000 people and displaced a further 2 million. In this heartfelt and moving book, Cheadle and Prendergast challenge readers to become politically active and help prevent the genocide from continuing.

Not on our Watch will be published by Maverick House in the UK and Ireland in July 2007 and in Australia and South Africa in September 2007. Pre-order your copy here.

Friday, 22 June 2007

The needle and the damage done

In early January 2007, Joe Duffy presented a programme on Irish television; 2006 How Was it For You? In an item on drugs and crime, Senator David Norris had this to say: ‘Well, the record drugs seizures (in Ireland in 2006) are a record waste of time. The War on Drugs is about as useful as the War on Terror. We’ve had seizures of cannabis and heroin, but it hasn’t stopped anything. It has proliferated, it has grown out of all proportion because of the enormous profits to be made and it has introduced—The Gun! Looking at the possibility of legalising and controlling drugs; that is the only way forward. The drug seizures are a headline, they make people feel positive, but quite honestly, it is a complete and utter waste of time. It is a red herring.’
Later, another Irish media personality Gay Byrne became embroiled in controversy when he too suggested that consideration should be given to legalising drugs.
Whether this could be a viable option or not, it does seem that conventional strategies have failed. In the early days of my descent into a life of drug dependency, I and my peers were eager and enthusiastic participants in what could be described as a cottage industry, compared to the billion-plus euro business of today. The business is now ruthlessly controlled by vicious gangs who will stop at nothing to maintain control over their domains. For example, two of these gangs in the Drimnagh and Crumlin area of Dublin where I grew up are engaged in a feud that has so far claimed nine lives. In 2006 there were 24 gun homicides in the 26 counties, most of which occurred in Dublin. The capital’s murder rate is soaring due to an upsurge in gangland violence according to ‘The Best of Times?’—a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). It revealed that Dublin’s homicide rate is increasing faster than that any other European capital city. What is even more frightening is that a staggering 85% of gun murders in Ireland do not result in a conviction.
A number of these murders have been ordered and directed from prisons. A recent search of Portlaoise Prison, Ireland’s maximum security jail, recovered 17 mobiles, 5 SIM cards, drugs, syringes, bootleg alcohol, and two budgies. Can anybody be in doubt that the situation is out of control?
Surely there is nothing to lose in trying an alternative to the present strategy which seems to confer even more wealth, power and influence on criminal gangs. Michael McDowell, the former Minister for Justice, is on record as stating that the drugs gangs pose as significant a threat to the State as paramilitarism did during the troubles in the North. Why not take control of the supply of drugs away from them? - Shay Byrne, author of The Miracle of Fatima Mansions

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

A Nightmare in Laos

Watch the video of Kays Danes' ordeal in a communist gulag. Taken away from her children and wrongly charged with gem smuggling, Kay was forced to endure 10 months of outrageous injustice and corruption while she tried to fight her case from behind the filth and squalor of one of Laos' secret gulags for foreign prisoners.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Growing up in inner-city Dublin

Some people have the impression that families reared in working class areas are neglected, or dragged up by their parents. I suppose I did nothing to help change this image by the mere fact of ending up on heroin, but we had quite a strict upbringing when we were young kids. Our home was old-fashioned, my parents were very conservative, and we had a lot of routine and order in the house. We didn’t have a lot but we had enough to get by. When you are a child, you never think too much about your own home. I certainly never did. I was too busy having fun. I took our life for granted because I knew no different.

Ma made us all sit down to dinner together when we were young. We had to be in bed at certain times, and we had our curfew. Saturdays were our bath days and you had to have a bath whether you wanted to or not. That was great. I loved the structure of home life. I always knew what was about to happen. I loved my large family even though it had its disadvantages.

For example, we all slept in bunk beds, and it got a bit cramped as we got bigger. When I think back on it I wonder how my parents coped. We were everywhere. We did everything together and we went everywhere together. The house was always full of children.

Our flat had three bedrooms. Ma and Da lived in the front room, looking out over the balcony, and our bedrooms were in the back. It was all the girls together and all the boys together.

My parents Mary O’Brien and Patrick O’Toole were working class people, and like me, they were also real townies. Ma grew up on Mountjoy Square and Da was from the tenements nearby in Summerhill. They met as teenagers and got married after a few years. They were close at first, but things started to go wrong a few years into their marriage.

Da was a drinker; one who went on binges. He mightn’t drink at all for a few weeks, then suddenly he’d lapse and go on a big binge. Because he didn’t drink everyday, he couldn’t recognise the fact that he had a drink problem.

He worked at the boats on the docks for a long time but work dried up and they let him go. He did a coal run for a while after that, but then he stopped working. After that, he done bits and pieces here and there, but nothing was really permanent.

He was a broken man cos he didn’t work regularly. He came from a very traditional family set-up where the man was the provider while the woman stayed at home and reared the children. When he couldn’t live up to this ideal, and as we got older and less controllable, he turned to the drink more and more.

Drink destroyed Da and my family. He lost his personality when he had drink on him. He wrecked his health and body, and was a different man when he went on the booze. There was no talking to him.

Every few weeks he would promise Ma that he’d stop. He would stay dry for a while but he would always fall off the wagon. He’d go on binges, then get a job on a building site, and then he’d hit the booze again. He got worse as he got older and trouble came into the family.

The last job he had was in the IFSC, doing security. It was a form of escape for him. He’d be there on his own, watching television, drinking a few cans. He was happy then. He died because of drink. He got ulcers and they burst. Despite all the hurt and pain he brought to the family, I miss him terribly; I know we all do.

* * *

Ma and Da didn’t really have a relationship or a marriage after a while. They just lived together for our sake. They were just two people living together who got along sometimes, but mostly they argued and fought. I think that’s the best way of describing their marriage after we started to go astray.

They were so busy trying to rear the seven of us that they left no time for each other. They came and went all the time.

When they weren’t fighting, they just existed alongside each other. Any love that had once been between them was long gone by the time I was old enough to realise it. I don’t know why they didn’t separate or leave home. I suppose they didn’t because they had nowhere to go, or maybe they stayed together because of us. I don’t know the answer to that question. But I know one thing for sure. Although they often weren’t able to show it, they both loved us; I just wish they loved each other more.

My parents made sure we had everything. We never went to school without our lunch. We never went without toys or schoolbooks, even though there were seven of us. I was bang smack in the middle of the family, and from an early age, I never felt like I fully belonged to either group. Debbie was the oldest with Olivia and Anthony close behind. You could say we were like slices of bread — one came after the other. There’s just a year between all of us. Then there was me, with Gary, Lindsay and Ryan close behind. While I was growing up, the question that forever occupied my mind was who I should play with. Should I go with the oldies or the young ones? We were all close in age, but we were also very close friends.

If I ever had a problem with anyone, Olivia or Debbie would be down like a shot to sort it out for me. They looked after me and the younger ones growing up. We were that sort of family. We were close. If you messed with one, you messed with us all.

My parents always looked after us no matter how bad things were between them. I have to say, though, that Ma did most of the work. When we were living in Saint Laurence’s Street there was only two bedrooms, and all the kids were in a single bed. We hadn’t got a bed when we were eight and nine months old so she used to put us in a chest of drawers. That’s how she survived.

Life gave her a raw deal. You could say it gave the people of the inner city a raw deal. Ma did what she had to do. She used to have to go in to her next-door neighbour and ask for a lend of half a shilling or half a crown to get us beans on toast or something like that. There were times she hadn’t got a penny. Da would be out drinking and she had nothing.

When it got to the point that they weren’t coping financially any more, she ended up shoplifting. It started off innocently, robbing messages from the shops, some milk and butter. When she realised that she was actually very good at it, she became more brazen and started doing all her ‘shopping’ in this fashion. She got away with it for a while, but she eventually got nicked, and went to prison several times for it.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I discovered she had been one of the best shoplifters in Dublin. It’s not something that she is proud of but she was so good, that at one point the security guards used to call her the Weed, because she could sneak in and out without them noticing. Ma doesn’t talk about those days now.

She stopped shoplifting a long time ago, and it was only when I got older and wiser that I realised what she was doing. She robbed to make ends meet and looked on it as a means to an end. She thought it was the only way, so she did what she felt she had to do to provide for her family and children.

At Christmas time she’d make a list of what we wanted, and then she would go down the country to do some ‘shopping’. She’d come back with our presents; Levi jeans, runners — everything we’d asked for and more. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on. At first, I thought she was making a list of what we wanted so she could give it to Santa. After that, I thought she was making the list so she’d know what to buy us herself. It was only when I got older that I realised she wasn’t buying these things, and neither was Santa. She was robbing them.

I have clear memories of her going off to Wales to make money from robbing. She would go on a day trip to Holyhead, fleece the place, and come back with thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes and drink. That’s how we had everything we needed growing up.

It was inevitable that she would get caught. You can’t get away with that type of thing forever. She was in and out of prison throughout my childhood, but Da always took good care of us while she was away. Although he was very fond of a drink, when she wasn’t around he stepped in to fill her shoes. It was only when she came back that he allowed himself to fall to pieces and to start binge-drinking again. He used to say to us, your Ma is gone away for a while, but we didn’t understand where she was, or why.

He really did his best for us. Sometimes, he’d bring us to see her in prison. We’d all walk up from SheriffStreet to go and see her in Mountjoy Prison. Debbie and Olivia would visit her every week but it was too hard for her having all the younger kids there as well. She’d be broken hearted, so it was only every now and then that we went up.

At the time, physical contact was allowed between the prisoners and visitors, so Ma found it very hard to let go of us when it was time to leave. I was too young to understand what was happening and I used to play with the toys they had there to keep the kids busy. I hardly paid any attention to Ma, until it was time to leave. I used to cry then when we had to leave because I didn’t want to leave her behind.

I wanted her to come home with us, and I’d realise that I’d hardly spent any time talking to her. After an hour we were all gathered up and told to say goodbye. When we’d get home in the evening, I’d be wondering why Ma hadn’t come home with us. Why did she stay behind? I would get upset then and worried about her being on her own, even though she had a lot of friends in there with her.

I can only imagine how she must have felt. I don’t believe that any woman would ever want to leave her children. I never stopped worrying about her when she was inside.

That was only natural cos, as a close family, we always worried about each other and looked out for each other. Children have short memories though, and we just continued with our football and our games and it never seemed long before she was home again.

In a strange way, things were peaceful when she was gone, because Da didn’t have anyone to fight with. We were too young to be doing anything to really annoy him, but if we did, he was quite good at dishing out discipline.

He always made sure we were clean and were ready for school. We never missed a day of primary school because of him. We could have been dying of the ‘flu but he’d still get us up out of bed. They were important things at the time. He tried to keep a structure in our lives, but it probably wasn’t enough to keep us together. It would be difficult for any man to raise seven children in inner city Dublin on his own, never mind someone with a drink problem.

Ma was only ever in prison for three months, or perhaps six months at a time. Once she was in Holloway prison after she got caught shoplifting with her friend. She’d be in and out of jail all the time and overall, she spent 10 years behind bars. It was always good having her around, until she got sent away again.

You might ask if I’m embarrassed about this now. I’m not. I’m proud of my Ma. I can see that she’s got strength of character. She had to feed her children, and she didn’t shirk her responsibility. She did what she had to to survive. - Julie O'Toole, author of Heroin

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Notes from an intern

While I was in college a publisher or someone from a publishing house would come in every Friday afternoon to talk to the class about the wonderful world of publishing they worked in. It can’t be denied that some of them could be pretty negative about the industry. The main complaints were the small salaries and some difficulties in getting a job. People looking for an internship in a Publishing House can be particularly concerned with these issues.

When you here horror stories of trying to make it in publishing it can really put you off. After getting a degree and maybe even a Master’s you would expect to get a good job that paid reasonable well. However if publishing is what you want to do you have to except that this nice salary may not happen for a little longer. In publishing, like with most industries, you need experience before you can get a job. As an intern you may not be getting paid much or even at all but the experienced gained will be invaluable.

I have learnt more about publishing in three days as an intern than I did in a year of study. College can give you an idea or overview of how things work but until you are actually working your way through a huge pile of submissions or laying out a 300 page book yourself that you really see how things work. The more work you put in the more value you will get out of what you are doing.

Deciding to embark on a career in publishing can be a difficult decision to make. You are basically agreeing to work very hard for very little money. However once you start down the path of publishing, have decided you are dedicated to the industry and find a good internship I don’t think there can be any turning back. - Niamh Gargan, Maverick House Intern

The competition is now closed. Congratulations to our final winners, Anthony and Rosa Penny, from Queensland, Australia.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

World Bank watch dogs sit and watch the wheels of corruption turn

Enter the competition at the end of this blog entry!

On 23rd December 2000, the secret police of the corrupt Communist Laos Government kidnapped Kerry Danes and took him to an undisclosed location in the nation's capital. Under Australian Embassy instructions, Kay Danes attempted to leave Laos with the couple's two youngest children, only to be intercepted at the Thai border.

Kerry and Kay Danes were former executive employees to one of Britains leading Security companies - Jardine Securicor. Kerry Danes, a highly decorated SAS soldier, was appointed Managing Director of Lao Securicor in 1999, a start up Security Company of the UK giant operating in the communist landlocked country of Laos.

Kerry and Kay Danes were centred in a dispute between their client, Gem Mining Laos, a US$2 billion dollar sapphire concession and the Laos Government. Despite intense interrogations, the Danes refused to make false statements that would otherwise implicate Gem Mining in unlawful activity, and result in its nationalisation. As a result, the Danes were detained in a prison of exceptionally primitive, squalid conditions in rural Laos for almost a year. They endured torture and ill-treatment. Their government deemed them hostages.

The Australian Ambassador to Laos, H.E. Jonathan Thwaites added “Let’s be clear about the Danes, the Australian Government will not let this matter rest until we have what we want, the Danes release. They are innocent. They have been caught up in power plays.”

Gem Mining Lao suffered mass destruction at the hands of the Laos Government, wilful destruction of property and blatant disregard for the assets and integrity of Foreign Investors. The illegal nationalisation of one of the world’s richest sapphire deposits almost brought the tiny landlocked country to its knees. Gem Mining Lao Directors were sentenced 20 years in absentia and fined US$30 million dollars by the Laos government for allegedly stealing their own assets.

Kerry and Kay Danes suffered immense injustices and trauma that tested their resolve both professionally as security managers, and emotionally, as husband and wife. Their story became one of the highest profiled cases in Australia at the time, featuring on every news channel until their release on November 9, 2001. Their plight highlighted the deceit of a country that pledged itself to upholding United Nations mandates and laws that were supposed to protect foreigners and investors but failed.

Now, six years on, Kerry and Kay Danes are once again enduring public humiliation at the hands of the Laos Government that is using their unlawful conviction as a smoke screen to its continued underhandedness. In a country steeped in corruption, the illegally nationalised Gem Mining Laos concession is being floated to the international market, at far less a price [US$5 million dollars] then what it was reportedly worth [US$2 billion]. Smell a rat?

The wheel has once again come full circle and one has to wonder how many more foreign investors will suffer at the hands of this regime? Where is the accountability from the so called watch dogs of corruption, the World Bank and the International community in Laos, who are fully privy to evidence supplied to them of torture of foreigners and investors caught in the snare of greedy Laotian officials! - Kay Danes, author of Nightmare in Laos.

Laos Government float GML to foreign market

Lao Securicor Security Audit Report [Shows mass destruction of Gem Mining]

Congratulations to the winner of our previous competition, Karen Araujo from Canada!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

An empty seat

Enter our competition at the bottom of this blog entry!

I’d had terrible dreams weeks before the launch of my book in Bangkok. I tossed and turned as I imagined every possible thing that could go wrong like turning up at the wrong place, on the wrong date, forgetting to invite people and then to have the few guests who did come, walk out on me. Thankfully it was a pleasant relief that none of those things actually happened on the big day.
60 people attended the launch, including a former executioner, a former prisoner, prison visitors, various volunteers, media folk, friends and interested expatriates. It was a highly meaningful time with sharing some thought provoking ideas concerning penal reform and activities to make the world a better place.
Sadly there was a very important person missing from our forum and it was not due to my forgetting to invite him either. Seri served over 20-years in Bangkwang; he lives like me in Nonthaburi, where he runs his newsstand. I see him almost daily; we share a common bond as well as a joke or drink. He flirts and I dance around his invitations for a ride on his new motorbike all the while encouraging him about his new life.
He was to be one of my guests of honor, one of the ones without whom there would be no book or proof that sometimes folk do actually make it out of the Big Tiger. He accepted my invitation willingly; he too wanted to have his say. But sadly he was dying. He did not make it as he had lost one of his lungs due to cancer, most likely caused by forced labor working for years in dusty, chemically polluted factories within the prison. He was just too weak to leave his bed. I have lost him, he has not returned to his newsstand and I fear the worst.
One consolation is that the book launch was more than a promotion of my book, or even of the executioners, but it became a panel and opportunity to bring out truths and hopes for change so that folk like Seri will not have to suffer in the future. Even the high-ranking authorities attending joined us in challenging the legal system and futility of the long sentences. The organizers were pleasantly surprised by the responses and I felt that everyone left stimulated and challenged, and secretly I hope that Seri is at peace feeling pleased that he was adequately defended. The launch signaled a rallying of additional voices that will defend the likes of Seri I pray! - Susan Aldous, author of The Angel of Bang Kwang Prison

Pictures by Virginia McCrae

Maverick House will be giving away 5 books from our backlist to one lucky reader. The answers to the following question can be found on . A winner will be drawn from all correct entries.

Question: What is the title of Susan Aldous' memoirs?

Send your answer along with your postal address to:

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The smiling temptress

Enter our competition at the end of this blog entry!

One of the things I learned early on in my career as Art Detective with the FBI is that there are good reasons why art theft and forgery is such a bullish growth industry. The soaring value of classic paintings has combined with a comparatively minuscule legal risk to create a landscape that has become every criminal’s dream job. With the auction price of a single Picasso topping $100 million in 2004, the sky is now the limit in this crazy, highly specialised industry. Yet the legal statutes haven’t remotely kept up with the unprecedented temptation to cross over to the dark side. Someone could snatch the Mona Lisa off the wall of the Louvre in Paris, sell it in New York’s Central Park for a cool $350 million, get caught a week later, and expect to be given no more than 18 months or so for the ‘sale and transportation of stolen property.’ Lady Justice, herself a popular model for so many painters, blindly doesn’t consider the value of the goods when doling out her democratic, non-prejudicial punishments.
Why not steal the Mona Lisa as a first time offender, and you may only walk away with probation? Or drive away in your goldplated Hummer limousine. How many people would trade a year and a half stint in jail for $350 million? A better question is: who wouldn’t?
- Thomas McShane, author of Loot: Inside the World of Stolen Art

Maverick House will be giving away 5 books from our backlist to one lucky reader. The answers to the following question can be found on A winner will be drawn from all correct entries.

Question: Which law school is Thomas McShane a graduate of?

E-mail Address: *

* Required

You may also submit your answer via e-mail to:

Friday, 4 May 2007

Give it away

My parents are at present celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and a life well lived. I am fortunate enough to have been able to come home to share these special moments with them. Australia and family are great places to take a break from the maddening pace of my life abroad.
Sadly though, the local newspapers are full of news of two young girls who ended their lives tragically in the bush this past weekend. Found laying side by side, looking intimately serene, the 16-year-olds ended their Emo lifestyle leaving a nation stunned. One of the pair was an only child, both were beautiful and from good families with such bright futures, but tragically felt they could not go on.
These awful deaths have caused parents and teens alike to do some serious soul searching, and most certainly have presented me great cause for inner reflection.
I too am an Aussie, I too at 16 found no purpose in life. I too wanted to end it all…but thankfully someone threw down the live-life-to-the-fullest gauntlet and challenged the confused teenager with this profound thought, “If you want to throw your life away, why don’t you give it away?”
My rejoinder is 30 years of fulltime volunteer work in 18 countries. A life lived, not with ease, not without mistakes, tragedies or grief, but one lived with purpose. One Life lived feeling truly blessed.
My book has just been published. What a nerve wrecking ordeal I am undergoing as I await the launch and responses that will follow from having opened up my life and feeling so vulnerable to critics. Somewhere during the bouts of see-sawing anxiety, denial, regrets and glee—talk about manic depressive lifestyles—comes a sobering thought that puts all things into perspective. “The girls, the two beautiful girls, if only they’d found the treasure of a challenge that had been presented to me! If only I or some other concerned person had been able to pass it onto them! What about all the others”
Hopefully, someplace amongst the uncertainty of my life’s tales a tiny light will shine forth and a soul will be able to read between the lines and discover that same treasure. As for the critics, they do not nearly matter as much as the troubled Emo child, the lonely wanderer and those who care enough to give a damn; these are they for whom I wrote the book.
- Susan Aldous in Melbourne

In the spirit of giving, Maverick House will be giving away 5 books from our backlist to one lucky reader. The answers to the following question can be found on . A winner wil be drawn from all correct entries.

Question: Where is author Susan Aldous currently living?

E-mail Address: *

* Required

You may also submit your answer via e-mail to:

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

The Paperless Office!

As a teenager, I supported Greenpeace. I wanted to save the world or a least preserve part of its beauty for future generations. I learned in horror of our disappearing rainforests and the affect it was having on wildlife, the environment and the ozone layer.

Many of the predictions taught in geography classes in the 1980s and 1990s have proven untrue. They told us that Ireland’s population was in decline, and although we were part of a baby boom and would have to pit ourselves against each other for places in college and jobs, that the birth rate would continue to drop and our children would have their pick of schools and colleges.

We are currently experiencing the greatest explosion in the population of Ireland since before the Great Famine. The average class size is currently over 30 pupils, and many children are being taught in inferior prefab buildings. Schools have to set limits on the age a child can begin school, in an attempt to manage class sizes.

What has this got to do with publishing, I hear you ask?

Another prediction that we were taught was that everyone would operate in a paperless office by the time the 21st century came around. In the late 90s it seemed to be heading that way, as companies enthusiastically embraced the internet and email. It certainly has changed the business climate, but has it created a paperless office? Not at Maverick anyhow.

The mountain of paperwork that arrives on my desk on a daily basis engulfs me and I struggle to keep control of it. My recycle bin fills and overflows regularly.

Similarly, the imminent demise of the book has also been exaggerated. Over the last few years we have heard predictions of e-books and how publishers should be quaking in their boots about the advent of the e-book; How people will shun their books in favour of reading on their computers, iPods and other devices.

I get the feeling the ‘experts’ have got it wrong again, and you can quote me on this. It won’t happen in my lifetime. Watch this space...

Jean, the MD.

Friday, 20 April 2007

The London Book Fair 2007

Spring time in London is always fabulous but this year the weather took everyone by surprise. With temperatures in the 20s, there were many sunburnt faces at London Book Fair on Monday morning.

The Mavericks kept their cool, however, and had a busy book fair meeting agents and authors, and buying rights.

The new venue at Earl's Court was great to work in - close to hotels, good facilities and and a comfortable environment, although many commented that the Irish stand was placed on aisle Z, it was in fact, a busy spot which attracted quite a few passers by.

We made some acquisitions, which we are very excited about, and will feature in our 2008 list.

The Mavericks also found time to hang out in South Kensington with fellow publisher, Peter Walsh from Milo Books, as all work and no play would make the Mavericks very dull indeed!

Jean, MD.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

The Last Executioner opened my eyes to a new world of reading

When I got my copy of The Last Executioner on recommendation, I was more than a little apprehensive settling down to start it. I am a definite graduate of chick lit to historical and literary fiction, but never was drawn to this particular genre. To be honest I didn’t think I’d get past the first chapter but I thought sure I’d give it a go.

Well how wrong could I be! I was straight away transported into Chavoret Jaruboon’s world and fascinated at how an Elvis loving guitar playing young buck about town could end up with the job he had. I was captivated from the word go. I was immediately struck with the great relationship Chavoret had with his father. He adored him and wasn’t afraid to show it through his words. His father instilled in him his grounded and down to earth ambition to get on in life and provide for his own family the way he had been provided for solely by his father. The user friendly style of writing helped my reading ease and the chapters just flew past.

Apart from the ‘man behind the mask’ aspect of the book, I was also drawn - with horror I must admit - into the whole world of Bangkwang prison and I was enthralled with the fly on the wall look at the day to day lives of the prisoners and quite disturbing tales of the executed and how they came upon they’re doomed fate on that cross. Chavoret, although recounting their stories, seemed to be able very easily to shrug off his job and go home to Tew and his family at the end of the day and continue his regular life. I don’t think just anyone could do that job and not bring ghosts home and he obviously is of strong mind and body to leave the prison and what he had done behind at the end of day. I very much admire him as a man and would greatly enjoy meeting him. His story stayed with me for a long time after I finished the book and it completely opened my eyes to the world “out there”. I now find myself scanning the true life/true crime section in my local bookstore rather than immediately heading for my usual well browsed fiction section. I never thought this genre would grab me the way The Last Executioner did and I am very much looking forward to reading Angel of Bang Kwang Prison.

Darrinagh Marshall, Arklow, Co Wicklow, Ireland.