read and reviewed a book called The Damage Done which was about an Australian called Warren Fellows who spent 12 years inside a Thai prison for smuggling heroin. At the time I'd taken a keen interest in reading books about people who had been locked away in foreign countries; fascinated by human survival in inhumane conditions.
I enjoyed that book and others like it immensely, but like most good life stories written down on the pages of a book, I always find myself wanting a bit more. I wondered what had happened to Warren after he had been released. Could he go back to a normal life? How does someone pick up the pieces after an experience like that? What was his family going through during that period?
And then I got an email from the lovely Lou Johnson at The Author People asking if I would be interested in reading the story of Adrian Simon, son of the infamous Warren Fellows, in his memoir Milk-Blood: Growing up the son of a convicted drug smuggler.
I jumped at the chance of course. I knew the backstory, although I wasn't quite aware of how much publicity the Fellows conviction had made in Australia at the time. But what started as an interest in finding out about the wider ramifications of a convicted drug trafficker became more about wanting to know if Adrian and his courageous mother Jan had their happy ending.
I don't say this very lightly, but Adrian's story blew me away. It was much more than a young boy transforming into a man whilst at the same time trying to come to terms with the impact his father's imprisonment and notoriety had on him. Quite simply, Adrian has led an incredible life and the snippets he shares of his mother's life story is 10 times more worthy of your sympathy than what her husband went through.
But I don't want you to think this is all doom and gloom. Yes, there is tragedy and heartbreak at the spine of this story. Adrian sees his father locked away at just two-years-old, his family life is violated by the media and they are shunned by those around them, and then he suffers a nervous breakdown at just nine-years-old. And at this point he still has another three decades of life to live!
But boy does he live it. No matter what the setback, no matter what the knock, Adrian just rolls with the punches and he has more life experiences by the time he is 30 than most people have in a lifetime. The tales of him traveling around Europe and the people he meets are worthy of a story on it's own.
Did it help that I had read The Damage Done? Yes, I would be lying if I said it hadn't, but that was only because my knowledge of that history helped me empathise and understand the emotion pouring out across those pages a little bit more. I was ferociously clawing at the pages, waiting for the moment when his father was released from prison to re-enter his sons life. It filled a lot of gaps for me.
With that being said, if I had not read Warren Fellows' book then I would still give this book a four star rating and recommend it to anyone who didn't know the backstory already.
But because I do have that knowledge, this one gets bumped to a five star rating, and it has nothing to do with Warren Fellows. This is my small pat on the back for the courageous bravery shown by Adrian and his mother Jan, and the incredible lives they have led all told with charm, wit and brutal honesty.
Buy Milk-Blood by Adrian Simon at Amazon.
Check out my interview with Adrian Simon.
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