Monday, 11 April 2011

The Guillotine Choice

I’m interrupting my poetry month with a special blog or two about another project I have been working on for the last six years. This is an inspirational novel based on a true story of an innocent young man who was sent to Devil’s Island in the 1920’s.

The reason I’m talking about this now? It’s the London Book Fair and the son of the man the book is about is touting the novel with a few agents and publishers. This blog posting is to give them more of a frame of reference.

The blurb I came up with is this...

What Would You Do?

It was 1927. He was 20, newly married and a father of one son.

He was living in an Algeria colonized by the French.

A Frenchman was murdered.

Regardless of his innocence he was given the choice – 25 years Hard Labour in the world’s worst prison, Devil’s Island …


See his cousins sent to the Guillotine.

Based on a true story …

Writers Michael Malone and Bashir Saoudi are seeking representation/ publication for a novel that has been years in the writing.

Bashir Saoudi grew up knowing his father was an innocent convicted of murder.

The Guillotine Choice is part of his journey, learning the truth behind the man he knew simply as “father”.

The Guillotine Choice is a story of the worst that man can do and the best that man can be.

It is a heart-warming tale of fathers and sons, vengeance and redemption.

Here’s the synopsis ...

In January 1907, Saoudi Kaci Ben Yahia was born into a family of Berbers in the beautiful Djurdjura Mountains of Kabylie in an Algeria that was struggling under the heel of the colonial French.

Growing up as part of a tight family unit, Kaci was keen to do add his effort to the family’s benefit. Having earned an education - one of the few Algerians who managed to do so in those times, Kaci found work as a translator/ guide for a French Hydro-Electric Company. Very quickly, Kaci earned a position of trust and the respect of his employer.

One the morning of July 2, 1927, he accompanied his boss while they carried the wages of the Moroccan workers up to the dam. They were attacked, the Frenchman was murdered and the money stolen. Suspicion immediately fell on Kaci. He was Algerian and by virtue of his presence during such a crime he was deemed to be guilty.

Arrested and charged with complicity in the act, Kaci was offered a choice by the French authorities. He could give them the name of the killer and win his freedom... or stay quiet and be shipped out to the penal colony that was infamous the world over: Devil’s Island.

Kaci immediately understood the implications of the situation. While he was allowed home to his young wife and child, the killer would face the Guillotine.

Kaci knew the identity of the murderer, for he was his cousin, Arab.

He told his father that he could not live with himself if his words led to a member of his family being beheaded in public – and he chose silence.

Ultimately, this sacrifice was for nothing as Arab was caught with gold coin linking him to the murder and although he did not face the blade, he too was convicted to life in prison in French Guiana.

Few men survived the hell that was Devil’s Island. Of the 70,000 men who were sent there over the 140 years of its existence most died in their first year, and only the hardy, courageous and lucky were able to go home when France was forced by world opinion to close the penal colony at the end of World War II.

The Guillotine Choice is a novel based on the true story of an innocent young man and his years on the most notorious prison in the world. It is a story of endurance, of triumph over despair and an inspirational tale where a naive young man retains his dignity among the worst trials that man can suffer.

Come back soon and I’ll give you a sample from the book.


  1. sounds interesting, Michael! I admire the research you probably have to do in order to gather the details for the story. Those colonial times (which never really ceased to exist) were really horrible.
    It sounds like something you could write a movie script too!

  2. Yes, they were horrible, Dez and the world continues to pay for the way the so-called civilized world raped and pillaged across Africa etc.

    A movie script would be the next step. How cool would that be!

  3. Can't believe these things happened in reality. Don't think these brutal way of punishment is still present. Even thinking about the incident brings shivers.

  4. Fantastic project Michael.

    Best of luck with it.

  5. And John, it really wasn't that long ago.

    Cheers, Ricky.

  6. Sounds like a great book! best of luck, Michael.

  7. Thank you, Thea. This is a story that deserves an audience - hopefully it will get it.