NEW YORK — When word got out Wednesday that “Guantanamo Diary” had made it onto the New York Times Best Sellers list, the book’s boosters were buoyant.
“It suggests this is a voice we really needed to hear,” the book’s editor Larry Siems told CNNMoney shortly after he learned the news on Wednesday. “It comes out of a really deep, dark void.”
But the person providing that voice and filling that void may have had no idea about the development. That’s because the author of “Guantanamo Diary,” Mohamedou Slahi, remains imprisoned at the U.S. detention center in Cuba.
The book, the first to be written by someone still imprisoned at Guantanamo, has been met with widespread praise. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald said “every American with a shred of conscience” should read it, while “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft called the book “an incredible document, and a hell of a story.”
Siems and other individuals involved with the book have had no trouble generating publicity, making promotional appearances on ABC, the BBC and MSNBC. And now there’s mounting evidence of commercial success. “Guantanamo Diary” cracked Amazon’s list of top-sellers last week before debuting at No. 14 on the prestigious New York Times list.
The book’s publisher, Little, Brown and Co., noted the list news with this tweet on Thursday morning: “A NYT bestselling author is detained at Guantánamo.”
Despite his role as editor, Siems has never had any face-to-face interactions with Slahi. Journalists have been repeatedly denied in their attempts to speak with Guantanamo detainees since the facility opened after 9/11.
Most of Slahi’s interactions with the outside world are with his legal counsel. One of those attorneys, Nancy Hollander, last saw Slahi in the fall. She said he was aware of the book’s coming release date, but it’s unclear if he’s caught wind of anything since it hit shelves last week.
“Who knows how much he knows?” Hollander told CNNMoney. “There’s a lot of scuttlebutt down there. The guards might tell him.”
Neither Siems nor Hollander are surprised that “Guantanamo Diary” has struck a chord with the public. Slahi’s more than 400-page account — filled with graphic and disturbing details of torture — has been held up by many as further proof that the detention center should be closed.
Slahi has been held there since 2002, but the U.S. government has never formally charged him. A federal judge ordered Slahi’s release in 2010, but the government appealed the decision.
Siems and Hollander hope that the book’s success ultimately helps secure the author’s freedom.
“It’s the gold standard,” Hollander said of the New York Times Best Sellers list. “That’s what we need, and that will sell more books.”