Blind Author Defies Odds

Les Pobjie’s gripping new novel Whispers in Empty Rooms: Death Through a Glass Darkly is a murder mystery that he knows he will never see.

The former newspaper editor and the author of two collections of short stories and three novels started losing the sight in his right eye due to glaucoma five years ago and while surgery did slow the progress he also lost the sight in his left eye around two years ago.

The Quakers Hill father of four thought without his eyesight it would be impossible for him to write another book but the idea for Whispers in Empty Rooms would not leave him alone and with the help of his family he has just published the 78,000-word mystery novel.

Just like his central character he switched on a voice recorder and dictated his work over 18 months. His son Ben transcribed it and then his wife Helen and eldest daughter Rebecca read it out to him and took note of the changes he wanted to make.

His other daughters, Emily, and Alice, helped with copy editing and publishing tasks. Sister-in-law, Penny, proofread the manuscript which is now a 300-page book.

He says he is “still learning to be blind” and often doesn’t know if there is anyone in the room with him and constantly has to ask if anyone is there, hence the title, Whispers in Empty Rooms.

While it is a murder mystery, it’s also an intimate look into the life of a man, like Les himself, struggling to adjust to blindness that has struck him late in life. Published by Tellwell, it’s testament to the power of the imagination to transform the darkest of circumstances into art.

At the beginning of the book, successful author George Martin’s body is found hanging from a rope in his home office at his Katoomba mansion. The members of his toxic household insist it was suicide, but the police have their doubts.

Central to the investigation is Martin’s last manuscript which he had composed using the voice recorder he always carried. The recorder was the repository for new pieces of writing and ideas for future stories, but also conversations, observations and humiliations he experienced in dayto- day life.

The book includes an unpunctuated manuscript transcribed from George Martin’s voice recorder which is being read by one of the detectives who is frustrated by the lack of punctuation.

One excerpt reads: “ I keep hearing voices in different rooms I should say I keep thinking I hear voices in different rooms if nobody answers then maybe there is nobody there but I am only blind not deaf long life meaning I wasn’t born yesterday I feel alienated in what was once my lovely mansion seems to be a house of mystery…”

It’s an unusual format as the novel also has eight short stories within it. Stories written by George Martin, which are quite dark but are a fascinating read.

Les says while writing it was “a long and sometimes frustrating process” he is happy with the published result: “I felt at times like giving up so now it’s done, I have a great sense of achievement. It’s wonderful to be able to hold a copy in my hands,” he said. “Even if I can’t read a single word of it myself.”

The 81-year-old is now looking at other projects to help people with impaired vision. A proud grandfather, he has developed a board game, Gold Rush, that can be played by all ages and all abilities which he would like to attract backing for. He is also working on a card game and is considering another book of short stories, “possibly titled Tales from a Hermit’s Cave”.

Whispers in Empty Rooms. is available both in Australia and overseas and is being made into an audiobook for the Vision Australia Library. It can be ordered online through Amazon, Booktopia and Apple iBooks.

There are printed copies ( paperback and hard cover) as well as an ebook. Just visit the websites ( or and select Whispers in Empty Rooms: Death Through a Glass Darkly.