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 www.maverickhouse.com/authors.html . 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: publicity@maverickhouse.com