So many wonderful things have happened since the publication of Torn Apart. Lost friends and family have contacted mum and me and we have had a succession of lovely letters from book readers.
In addition we have received a large number of letters from people who have strong connections with Burma and India and who in some cases fled the Japanese invasion of Burma. Some of their tales are harrowing and the plan is to include these in the sequel. We have had a succession of letters from the Ba-Maung family who were very prominent and well connected in Rangoon society, Dr Ba-Maung being the Port Authority doctor. There are a few tales to tell from that quarter.
I am also delighted to report that Glenn S. Hensley, the military photographer whose picture of Rangoon in 1945 appears in the photo section of the book has also been in regular contact and he is sending me a large folio of pictures taken by him during and just after the war. I hope he doesn’t mind me telling you this but he is 89 years old and has a wonderful sense of humour. He was a superb photographer and something tells me he has never lost that skill.
The book launch took place in the wonderful surroundings of Yeadon's Bookshop in Elgin. Vicky organised a most enjoyable evening for Mum and I and the members of the audience. It was a pleasure to browse in such pleasant surroundings and we were all very relaxed before the event. The audience asked quite a number of questions and Mum was on good form as she answered them quite happily, adding her own little asides each time. She was marvellous.
After a number of smaller author talks came the big event, The Edinburgh International Book Festival. It is a great honour to be invited to participate as it is one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the World. The event organisation was excellent and we were made so welcome by everyone. The venue was packed when we entered and there were still people trying to get tickets at the desk. We were very fortunate to have Roy Cross, Director of the British Council Scotland as our chairman. He put us both at ease and Mum really felt comfortable with him leading the proceedings due to his air of confidence and calmness. The whole talk went well and again Mum was in sparkling form, laughing and telling funny stories to the audience. The hour long session flew past and off we went to the book signing tent where we signed over sixty books. We enjoyed that part of the festival just as much, as many of the people talked to us about their stories and connections with India or Burma. We met so many nice people that evening and we enjoyed talking to them all. Needless to say we returned in the days that followed and always received the same warm welcome. Thanks to Catherine and her team.
An author talk took place on the 15th of October in our home town of Huntly. Jennifer and Sue organised the event and it ran like clockwork. Thirty five people attended, some familiar faces and some not. It was such a pleasure to see my old headmaster in the audience and he interacted wonderfully at all the right times in the presentation. Again there were a lot of questions and I certainly enjoyed the evening and hope that the audience did so too. Many members of the audience had read 'Torn Apart' and it was nice to hear their comments and feedback. It was good to be back in the Brander Library. In 1958, just after we arrived in Huntly, my father took us all up to the library to become members and we remained so until we all flew the nest.
The author talk at The Green Hotel, Kinross on the 27th of November was well attended and proved a most enjoyable evening with the talk lasting just over two hours. Most of the audience had not read 'Torn Apart' and the question and answer session gave them an opportunity to find out more. I was able to update them on the most recent events including the letter telling us that Bertha de'Alvis and her brother Theo are very much alive and well. We plan to visit Theo in the New Year and it would be nice to think that we might actually be able to meet Bertha as well. The intention now is to find out from Theo his very exciting part in the war, as he served with distinction as a chindit. Bertha too was recognised for her deeds as a nurse throughout the campaign and finished military service as an officer, but again I would really like to hear her story first hand.
On Saturday 27th of December Mum and I were to be heard on Saturday Live, the highly entertaining radio 4 broadcast. Clare Balding conducted the interview and was such a nice lady. Mum has long been a fan of hers and it was a very nice, if somewhat stressful, experience. The highlight for Mum was probably receiving a signed photo of Clare. Now it is all about preparing for the trip to London in mid January which is preceded by the Scotland-Kolkata Connections reception at the Scottish Parliament. Then it is off to Kolkata for the next big event, the Kolkata Book Fair where I am doing a talk in early February. Work on the second book has slowed down but will hopefully take off when I have the story of Theo's war.
On the 2nd of February 2009 while the cold Siberian winds brought heavy snow and chaos to many parts of the country, Caroline and I set off for Glasgow International Airport, our destination Kolkata. Once again Emirates looked after us very well and we arrived tired and somewhat jet lagged on Tuesday 3rd. My talk was that afternoon so I had little time to catch up on sleep. The Kolkata Book Fair is the largest in the World in terms of numbers attending but not even that knowledge prepared me for the huge numbers of people surrounding every venue and book shop. The talk went well and I was surprised by the audience response to 'Torn Apart'. The questions came thick and fast and there was a real interest in the story of Mum and her sister Blanche. There were journalists from all the major Indian newspapers and even a TV crew and the level of their background knowledge and the amount of research they had obviously undertaken made for a very lively couple of hours of questions. It was quite a relief when it was all over. Other highlights of the trip to Kolkata included the Red Hot Chilli Pipers concert and the Burns Supper, the Chilli Pipers performing at both events.
It was wonderful to see the family again and as always Aunt Blanche was full of fun and laughter and we spent many happy hours with them all.
A number of events are planned for later this year and the mass market paperback edition of 'Torn Apart' is due for release in early June. The front cover has undergone a dramatic change and is very eyecatching and in addition there is a new section bringing the reader up to date with the story.