Launch of picture book The Phantom Of Oxley Castle abruptly cancelled

A launch event for The Phantom Of Oxley Castle was to be held on Nov 18, but it was cancelled, with both the venue and publisher saying each other was responsible for the change in plans.
A launch event for The Phantom Of Oxley Castle was to be held on Nov 18, but it was cancelled, with both the venue and publisher saying each other was responsible for the change in plans. PHOTO: LOCALBOOKS.SG

SINGAPORE - An event to launch a picture book titled The Phantom Of Oxley Castle has been cancelled less than a week before its scheduled date - with the publisher and the venue operator each saying the other was responsible for the cancellation.

Published by Epigram Books, the children's book was to be launched on Saturday (Nov 18) at The Arts House in Old Parliament Lane.

On Sunday (Nov 12), Mr Edmund Wee, chief executive of Epigram Books, said The Arts House had informed him on the phone over the weekend that they "did not want the book launch (to take place) at their premises".

He added that The Arts House gave him a reason for the cancellation, but he declined to disclose the reason. The book's sale will go ahead as planned.

An Arts House spokesman, however, told The Straits Times on Sunday night that the final decision to cancel or postpone the event was made by Epigram Books.

The book centres on a grand castle with 38 rooms, on a tropical island, where two young princes, a princess, and their pesky butler named OB Markus live.

An online synopsis for the book reads: "Prince Hector the Eldest is bookish and rational; Prince Humphrey the Youngest is rebellious; and Princess Harriet is daring and brash. One night, the children hear a strange ghostly noise coming from the dungeon and decide to investigate."

The book is the brainchild of Mr Wee. It is co-written by Ms Chloe Tong, 24, a University of Warwick postgraduate student, and National University of Singapore graduate Liana Gurung, 23, and illustrated by Ms Ann Gee Neo.

The book's title and storyline bring to mind the 38 Oxley Road saga and Lee family feud that began in June.

The dispute involves disagreements between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, over the fate of their family house in Oxley Road.

PM Lee subsequently made a ministerial statement in Parliament in July during a two-day debate which saw the Whip lifted for People's Action Party backbenchers.

Asked about the dispute in an interview last month, PM Lee said: "The matter is in abeyance. I am not sure that it is solved."

Mr Wee and the authors told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore that all characters in the book were fictional, and that it was not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events.

"I think everyone should read the book before jumping to conclusions," Mr Wee told The Straits Times on Sunday.

He hopes to launch the book at another venue, although it is too late to get a venue by Saturday.

He added: "We, of course, would like to launch the book eventually. We'll wait and see what happens on Monday."

The 32-page hardcover book costs $16.90. Epigram Books said the first print order is 2,000 copies.

The launch of an unrelated Epigram book will still go ahead at The Arts House on Saturday. Scheduled one hour before the cancelled event, that picture book is titled Dream Island: The Mad, Mad World of Philip Yeo and written by Mr Peh Shing Huei.

According to its website, The Arts House is a multidisciplinary arts centre with a focus on literary programming. It occupies the Old Parliament House and is managed by a not-for-profit organisation - Arts House Limited (AHL) - under the National Arts Council. AHL also manages Goodman Arts Centre and Aliwal Arts Centre.