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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


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Very commercial, cross trade appeal to both men and women. Highly promotable author. Utterly original story with word-of-mouth appeal. Potential award winner. Guaranteed publicity.

About the Author

Paul Torday was born in 1946 and read English Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is married with two sons by a previous marriage and has two stepsons. He has spent most of his life in industry, but in the last three years has found the time to write. For the last fifteen years he has also been a keen salmon fisherman, and as he lives close to the River North Tyne, he has been able to indulge in this enthusiasm. He lives in Northumberland and has often visited the Middle East.


In Torday's winningly absurdist debut, Dr. Alfred Jones feels at odds with his orderly life as a London fisheries scientist and husband to the career-driven Mary, with whom he shares a coldly dispassionate relationship. Just as Mary departs for a protracted assignment in Geneva, Alfred gets consulted on a visionary sheik's scheme to introduce salmon, and salmon-angling, to the country of Yemen. Alfred is deeply skeptical (salmon are cold-water fish that spawn in fresh water; Yemen is hot and largely desert), but the project gains traction when Peter Maxwell, the prime minister's director of communications, seizes on it as a PR antidote to negative press related to the Iraq war. Alfred is pressed by his superiors to meet with the sheik's real estate rep, the glamorous young Harriet, and embarks on a yearlong journey to realize the sheik's vision of spiritual peace through fly-fishing for the people of Yemen. British businessman and angler Torday captures Alfred's emerging humanity, Maxwell's antic solipsism, Mary's calculating neediness and Harriet's vulnerability, presenting their voices through diaries, e-mails, letters and official interviews conducted after the doomed venture's surprisingly tragic outcome. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

The action in this debut novel centers on British fisheries scientist Dr. Alfred Jones, who has been enlisted by the prime minister to bring salmon into Yemen. This project is financed by the wealthy Sheikh Muhammad, who sees fishing as a unifying activity that will break down the barriers of sect, class, and religion. Dr. Alfred's impossible assignment is documented not only through traditional narrative but also through e-mails, letters, bureaucratic memos, and media interviews, which exposes the ineptitude of Kafkaesque government agencies. Beyond the intriguing plot is a telling contrast between capitalism, clearly identified as the religion of Western culture, and Muslim culture. Dr. Alfred's marital relationship is strained as he becomes interested in Harriet, the British agent who negotiated the project and whose fianco is missing in action during a covert military raid in Iran. With relationships so difficult on a personal level, communication on a cultural level is clearly all but impossible. In the end, Dr. Alfred falls back on the wisdom of the sheikh: "To learn to believe in belief and one day you will take the second step and find what it is you believe in." Instructive as well as highly entertaining, this fascinating metaphor of Western hubris would be excellent for reading groups.-David A. Berono, Plymouth State Univ., NH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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