September 07, 2011

Uncovering the secrets of ‘Foxy Lady’

A random Google search first introduced Winnipeg author Dave Kattenburg to Stuart Glass, a young B.C. adventurer killed by the Khmer Rouge on board his little yacht  -- Foxy Lady -- in 1978. 

“I thought – a Canadian had died… a Canadian yachtsman? That’s amazing,” said Kattenburg. “And all the stories were the same. There was just one tale about him. No information about who he was, or where he was from. Nothing…”

Kattenburg began researching Glass in an effort to uncover more information about the details surrounding the capture of Foxy Lady. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. 

“I was intrigued,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. I wondered how it was possible that there was nothing known about him, and I saw it as a challenge.”

The easiest part of Kattenburg’s research was locating Glass’ family in Canada. He obtained a great deal of information from them, but realized much more would be needed to write a book. 

Stuart Glass had met Englishwoman Susan Jessie Everard in 1972, the Glass family told Kattenburg, and she had been his best friend, partner and companion until 1977. It would be impossible to fill in the details of Glass’ life during that time without talking to Susan, and Kattenburg began a detailed quest to find the woman who would hold many of the answers.

He first found Susan’s sister, Margaret, an Anglican minister who agreed to put Kattenburg in contact with her younger sister. And then, finally, Susan called.

“I was so blown away when I found her,” Kattenburg said. “It was at that moment – when I heard her voice on the phone – that I realized this could actually become a book.”

A shot of Foxy Lady -- before disaster struck...

Talking to family and friends was only one part of Kattenburg’s research. In addition to flipping through phone directories and poking through archives, he visited Cambodia -- the home of Pol Pot and the feared Khmer Rouge regime -- twice. 

In Cambodia, over the course of nearly four years, between 1.7 and 2.2 million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng -- a prison, torture house and death camp -- was responsible for at least 12,000 of those deaths. 

Included in these were New Zealander Kerry Hamill and Englishman John Dewhirst, Stuart Glass’ two mates on board Foxy Lady when she was captured in 1978. While Glass was killed aboard the yacht -- in a hail of Khmer Rouge gunfire -- Hamill and Dewhirst would suffer a worse fate. They were dragged off to Tuol Sleng prison (nicknamed S-21) in Phnom Penh, charged with being CIA spies, tortured for a few months and then killed.

Foxy Lady: Truth, Memory and the Death of Western Yachtsmen in Democratic Kampuchea tells the story of yachtsmen killed by the Khmer Rouge (there were nine in total), and chronicles the rise and fall of the brutal Democratic Kampuchean regime. The story also focuses on the Khmer Rouge’s chief executioner, S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav, aka “Duch.”

For a complete synopsis of Foxy Lady, click here

When asked what advice he would give to anyone attempting to write a non-fiction novel, Kattenburg replied that it is important to be persistent, especially when writing a book that involves digging up undisclosed information.

A photo of author and journalist Dave Kattenburg...

“If you’re patient and tenacious enough, eventually things reveal themselves,” Kattenburg explained. “And, I think you have to be a little crazy too…”

Did you know?
Recently, a film titled Brother Number One has been released in Australia and New Zealand. It examines the Foxy Lady story from a completely different perspective. It chronicles the journey of Rob Hamill – brother of murdered Foxy Lady skipper Kerry Hamill – as he travels to Cambodia to retrace the steps taken by his brother during his last months alive.

If you would like to watch the trailer, or learn more about the film, click here

About the author…
Dave Kattenburg was born on Long Island in 1953. He holds bachelor and Ph.D. degrees in biology and health sciences, teaches university science courses and produces radio stories on global environment, development and social justice issues. Documentaries arising from his travels have appeared on CBC Radio, Radio Netherlands, Free Speech Radio and his own site David currently resides at the epicenter of North America, Winnipeg.

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