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IT'S AMAZING to reach a Methuselah stage and still find that extraordinary things happen in life. They don't often, of course, and they certainly don't happen quickly. Praying to your lucky stars often takes a bit longer than an Amazon delivery. But, heavens! when they happen! And it's just happened again.

When the horrorshow began, I knew nothing about prisons. As it turned out, I found I knew nothing of the law which we are brought up to believe is the, er, envy of the world! When the judge said '19 years', I presumed he was wishing the cost of a burial onto the State.

Then, amazingly, I learned that 19 years meant half the time, if you didn't make a habit of mugging officers and sawing through the bars, and digging tunnels.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.

I also learned that appeal results only worked for the tiniest number, and that I wasn't included. Still, somehow, nineteen years was trimmed to 16 years - which as I've noted elsewhere, was the same as the trimmed sentence for the alleged Lockerbie bomber with (allegedly) 270 souls on his conscience.

Really excellent people

Eventually the eight years ended. Some really excellent people work in the Prison Service, but as with any job a few of the other sort lurk there, too. This latter dark group wouldn't let on whether I was to go home or not. They ensured I did an extra fortnight. With two days notice, the wonderful news was passed on. What a moment for the spirit!

So much of my life, comparatively, plus my reputation and my life savings had been stolen by injustice, but in return I had a unique story to tell.

And I wrote, and I rewrote, and rewrote, and for eight years I collected polite but not encouraging notes from publishers. Then - at last! - Olympia wrote back saying, 'Please send the complete manuscript.' Less than two months later, I had the contract. What a moment in life! Suddenly, well, very nearly, those eight years locked away were, well, felt, sort of, worthwhile.

And now just over a year later, Sailing to Purgatory is about to hit the bookshelves. For me, that's miles better - enormously better - than winning a lottery. And it's through my hard work, and if it doesn't sound too dramatic, suffering!

And with eight days to go to publication, here is the press release by Chantelle of Olympia!

The final voyage, a singlehander’s farewell to the sea, began well. The yacht was strong and fast, his ocean-going experience vast. With Mark Twain's advice in mind, Sail away ... Explore. Dream. Discover, 8,000 miles of adventure lay ahead. And there was plenty - facing scary storms, pausing on an island of lust, being detained by aggressive lawmen, rediscovering intense mid-ocean alienation, falling in love, being poised over an oceanic Garden of Eden. Finally the swallowing-the-anchor journey reached home. A sort of heaven with retirement, marriage and peace its promise. In reality it was Purgatory, offering ambush, injustice, and imprisonment...

Sailing around the world alone encouraged Paul Rodgers, former Fleet Street journalist, to study at nautical college where he graduated as a commercial yacht master. He sailed solo extensively through his professional seagoing years. Sailing to Purgatory follows his adventure story Loner, a novel To Kill a God, and an astro-navigation tutorial, Sailing by the Stars. Paul lives in London.