Former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Lieutenant Oliver Hinckson is thinking of resuming efforts to have restored to him the US $10,000 prize money and a prestigious award from the Cuban literary house, Casa de las Americas.
In his early 30’s, Hinckson won the first prize for literature in the organisation’s international literary competition from a field of 760 entries from 23 countries in 1978 with an unpublished book, Enemy Within.
Shortly after the results of the competition were announced the prize was withdrawn from Hinckson who was then on the run from the Guyana police. The Cubans said he had breached the rules of the competition by using a non-de-plume and by not disclosing that he was in trouble with the law.
Hinckson acknowledged that he wrote under a pen name – that of his son Kacey Hinckson. But he claimed that the Cubans knew that he had used his son’s name on the manuscript and that they had told his relatives that they were not concerned with the troubles he had been having with the police.
Hinckson could not pursue the matter for some time, because just around then he decided to give himself up after over two years on the run, and accompanied by his lawyer, he reported to the police in September 1978 to begin serving a sentence imposed two years before.
He wrote Casa de Las Americas through the Cuban Embassy asking that the prize be reinstated.
Hinckson said he quit the GDF having been a paratrooper and intelligence officer who was trained in Britain at the prestigious Mons Officer Cadet School.
His troubles with the local police began in 1973 when, according to him, he was charged with being in possession of a house-breaking implement – a hammer.
After a court battle, he was sentence in 1976 to two years and nine months imprisonment, but made a daring escape from custody. It was during that period when he was in hiding, mostly in Guyana, that he wrote Enemy Within. It took him two months.
He was faced with a series of other police charges, pleaded guilty, and had sentences of nine months imposed on him, to run concurrently with the one he had been serving.
The manuscript blends fact and fiction. The plot centers on the fact that a flocculent formula was discovered locally for the Guyana bauxite industry. Hinckson wove around it a fictional plot in which foreign agents connected with bauxite multi-nationals attempting to steal the formula.
The first-time author has had the book published in the USA and admits that it sold very well there and back home. “I have just one copy left and I have hidden it, even from myself.”
The drafts of two other books – The Marionette and By Trial, By Terror –have been put aside for years as the double St. Stanislaus College scholarship winner moved on to get his BSc in International Relations and Master’s in Global Studies.
The Doctorate in Foreign Policy still eludes him but he is determined to get it this year along with the coveted Cuban prize after 37 years.
It must be the letter that Hinckson received from the famous Guyanese novelist and poet Jan Carew in 1978 that fuels his determination. One paragraph says it all: “You showed a mastery of narrative form, of characterization and of pacing a fairly long work of this genre. You definitely should continue with your craft of writing, and you should do so with the knowledge that writing is a life-long vocation.”