SINGAPORE, Nov 14 — The launch of The Phantom of Oxley Castle, a picture book which has sparked interest on social media, has been postponed indefinitely because the publisher did not want it to take away the attention on another book which was to be launched together.
This was the explanation given by Epigram Books CEO Edmund Wee in a press statement issued yesterday, a day after he had told The Straits Times that the postponement was because the venue operator “did not want the book launch (to take place) at their premises”.
The claim was contradicted by The Arts House, which said the decision was made by Epigram Books.
Yesterday, Epigram Books described Wee’s comments as a “misunderstanding”, and said that it had “initiated” the decision to put off the book launch.
The publisher said The Phantom of Oxley Castle was slated to be launched on November 18 at The Arts House in Old Parliament Lane, an hour after the launch of Dream Island: The Mad Mad World of Philip Yeo by Peh Shing Huei.
“While the original intent was to do a dual book launch, we have decided that it will be better to focus on doing a one book launch,” said Wee in the statement.
He noted that Peh’s book on Yeo — a former top civil servant — has “a charity component”.
Speaking to TODAY, Wee reiterated that the firm wanted to “emphasise attention on the Philip Yeo book and not divide the attention (between both books)”.
The Phantom of Oxley Castle centres around two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler called OB Markus, who live in a grand castle with 38 rooms on a tropical island.
Wee came up with the idea for the picture book, which was illustrated by Ann Gee Neo, and co-written by University of Warwick postgraduate student Chloe Tong, 24, and National University of Singapore graduate Liana Gurung, 23.
The book’s title and storyline bring to mind the public spat which broke out between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings — Dr Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang — over the fate of their family home located at 38 Oxley Road.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore earlier this month, Wee described the book’s reference to the dispute as “oblique”.
He stressed that all characters in the book are fictional. The two writers also said the work is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events, but they admitted there are similarities.
The Oxley Road saga made its way to Parliament, where a two-day debate was held.
Among other things, PM Lee took Members of Parliament through the events that led up to the dispute erupting in public, before rejecting the “entirely baseless” allegations that he had abused his power and harboured political ambitions for his son.
Last month, PM Lee said in an interview which aired on CNBC that the issue was in “abeyance”, and that he was not sure that it has been solved.
On Sunday evening, socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) claimed in a Facebook post that PM Lee would be suing Epigram and the authors for defamation.
TOC later issued a correction, and edited their post to say that Epigram and the authors were only told that they would be receiving a letter yesterday in relation to the book.
At the end of business day yesterday, Epigram has “not received any letter of any kind from the Prime Minister’s Office or any individuals”.
Nevertheless, the publisher said it has sought legal advice from Peter Low & Choo LLC regarding the publishing of the book. Both Epigram and Low declined to comment on what legal advice was given.
Epigram said it will continue to take orders for The Phantom of Oxley Castle but delivery will be confirmed at a later date.
Peh told TODAY that he had no say in the book launches, and “everything was planned and organised by Epigram”.
“The launch of my book will proceed as planned, but I have no idea about anything relating to the Oxley book,” he said.
Thirty per cent of the proceeds from the sale of Peh’s book to selected organisations will be donated to the EDIS Cares Fund, which supports programmes addressing key needs at critical stages of a child’s growing years. — TODAY