Cover image for Salmon fishing in the Yemen
Salmon fishing in the Yemen
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
Orlando : Harcourt, 2007.
Physical Description:
333 p. ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
A middle-aged scientist working at London's National Centre for Fisheries Excellence, Dr. Alfred Jones takes on the outlandish--and ill-fated--task of introducing the sport of salmon fishing into the Yemen River at the behest of a mysterious sheikh.


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Book TORDAY 1 .SOURCE. 8/12 H

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Dr. Alfred Jones is a henpecked, slightly pompous middle-aged scientist at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in London when he is approached by a mysterious sheikh about an outlandish plan to introduce the sport of salmon fishing into the Yemen. Dr. Jones refuses, but the project, however scientifically absurd, catches the eye of British politicians, who pressure him to work on it. His diaries of the Yemen Salmon Project, from beginning to glorious, tragic end, form the narrative backbone of this novel; interspersed throughout are government memos, e-mails, letters, and interview transcripts that deftly capture the absurdity of bureaucratic dysfunction.With a wickedly wonderful cast of characters--including a weasel-like spin doctor, a missing soldier and his intrepid fiancée, and Dr. Jones's own devilish wife--Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the whimsical story of an unlikely hero who discovers true love, finds himself first a pawn and then a victim of political spin, and learns to believe in the impossible.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Almost exclusively through correspondence--memos, e-mails, diary excerpts, and the text of a government investigation--Torday has woven a charming novel about a bizarre plan to introduce salmon fishing into Yemen and bring the benefits of the sport to Yemenis. When first approached, Alfred Jones, a scientist at London's National Centre for Fisheries Excellence, dismisses the idea as ridiculous, but it catches the attention of the prime minister's spinmeister, and Alfred is compelled to consult with the author (and bankroller) of the plan, a fabulously wealthy Yemeni sheik. Dutifully, Smith begins to study the idea while realizing that his 20-year marriage to a shrewish, driven banker is devoid of love. And, while being tossed about by political agendas, he begins to believe that the impossible may be possible. That may sound trite, but Torday carries it off with a wacky plot, vivid characters, and a knowing sense of politics and bureaucracy. A remarkably assured first novel, this one is a pure delight. --Thomas Gaughan Copyright 2007 Booklist

Guardian Review

Another impressive first novel, which might not have been quite as impressive without its starry cast of readers. Epistolary novels and their modern equivalents like this one, which substitute emails for letters, work well in print but not somehow with a single voice. Part satire, part thriller, part romance, Torday's wildly extravagant plot centres on a loony Arab sheikh with a Scottish estate who dreams of pacifying his warring Yemeni tribesmen by introducing them to the calming joys of salmon fishing. Salmon need cold oceans and fresh river water; the Yemen is a desert, but where there's a will and bottomless coffers, there's always a way. Funny, sad, surprising and highly recommended. Caption: article-Audio17.2 Another impressive first novel, which might not have been quite as impressive without its starry cast of readers. - Sue Arnold.

Kirkus Review

Sort of like a lesser Monty Python episode, this debut novel features British bureaucrats and biz types who collaborate with a starry-eyed sheikh to spur peace and profits by introducing salmon fishing in the Mideast desert. Middle-aged milquetoast Dr. Alfred Jones shudders at "the irrational, the unpredictable, and the unknown." He's a perfect patsy, then, for Torday to play with. The author embroils the star flunky of the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in one seriously whacky scheme. E-mailing his dour, domineering spouse, Mary, about the project, Fred initially dismisses it as "scientifically nonsensical." Political pressure, however, prompts his meeting with Sheikh Muhammad, who argues that the Arab-Israeli and Yemeni internecine conflicts just might evaporate if all warring parties embraced gentlemanly fishing. The beguiling billionaire wheedles Fred into submission; even more effectively, so does Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, dishy publicist for Fitzharris & Price, the posh consultants the Sheikh hired to strong-arm Parliament into realizing his impossible dream. Frosty financier Mary belittles Fred by reminding him that her salary's twice his and constantly exacerbating his abandonment issues. Plus, her charms recall those of a Dickensian schoolmarm. Can't blame Fred, then, for falling for Harriet, who might as well be a Bond Girl, and, even while romancing a cute upper-crust captain on tour in Iraq, not above leading Fred on. In short order, things get dizzyingly farcical, as al-Qaeda involvement is suspected, as the notoriously contentious English press assails the Prime Minister and as Fred loses his bearings and his heart. By the end, a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is threatening to bring down a government, and nasty fates have befallen Sheik and Captain. A giggle-inducing fish story. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1THE ORIGINS OF THE YEMEN SALMON PROJECTFitzharris PriceLand Agents ConsultantsSt Jamess StreetLondonDr Alfred JonesNational Centre for Fisheries ExcellenceDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsSmith SquareLondon15 MayDear Dr JonesWe have been referred to you by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign Commonwealth Office (Directorate for Middle East and North Africa). We act on behalf of a client with access to very substantial funds, who has indicated his wish to sponsor a project to introduce salmon, and the sport of salmon fishing, into the Yemen.We recognise the challenging nature of such a project, but we have been assured that the expertise exists within your organisation to research and project manage such work, which of course would bring international recognition and very ample compensation for any fisheries scientists who became involved. Without going into any further details at this time, we would like to seek a meeting with you to identify how such a project could be initiated and resourced, so that we may report back to our client and seek further instructions.We wish to emphasise that this is regarded by our client, who is a very eminent Yemeni citizen, as a flagship project for his country. He has asked us to make clear that there will be no unreasonable financial constraints. The Foreign Commonwealth Office supports this project as a symbol of Anglo-Yemeni cooperation.Yours sincerely(Ms) Harriet Chetwode-TalbotNational Centre for Fisheries ExcellenceDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsSmith SquareLondonMs Harriet Chetwode-TalbotFitzharris PriceLand Agents ConsultantsSt Jamess StreetLondon1 JuneDear Ms Chetwode-TalbotDr Jones has asked me to thank you for your letter dated 15 May and reply as follows.Migratory salmonids require cool, well-oxygenated water in which to spawn. In addition, in the early stages of the salmon life cycle, a good supply of fly life indigenous to northern European rivers is necessary for the juvenile salmon parr to survive. Once the salmon parr evolves into its smolt form, it then heads downriver and enters saltwater. The salmon then makes its way to feeding grounds off Iceland, the Faroes or Greenland. Optimum sea temperatures for the salmon and its natural food sources are between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.We conclude that conditions in the Yemen and its geographical location relatively remote from the North Atlantic make the project your client has proposed unfeasible, on a number of fundamental grounds. We therefore regret we will be unable to help you any further in this matter.Yours sincerelyMs Sally Thomas (Assistant to Dr Jones)Office of the Director, National Centre for Fisheries ExcellenceFrom: David SugdenTo: Dr Alfred JonesSubject: Fitzharris Price/ Salmon/ YemenDate: 3 JuneAlfredI have just received a call from Herbert Berkshire, who is private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Foreign and Co Excerpted from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 The origins of the Yemen Salmon Projectp. 1
2 Extracts from the diary of Dr Alfred Jones: his wedding anniversaryp. 12
3 Feasibility of introducing salmon into the Yemenp. 34
4 Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: his meeting with Sheikh Muhammadp. 43
5 Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: marital issues may have clouded his judgementp. 63
6 Correspondence between Captain Robert Matthews and Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbotp. 74
7 Press commentp. 87
8 Intercepts of al-Qaeda e-mail trafficp. 95
9 Interview with Peter Maxwell, director of communications, prime ministers officep. 99
10 Transcript of Interview with the prime minister, the Rt Hon. Jay Vent MP, on BBC1 The Politics Showp. 106
11 Continuation of interview with Peter Maxwellp. 111
12 E-mail correspondence between David Sugden, NCFE, and Mr Tom Price-Williams, head of fisheries, Environment Agencyp. 119
13 Extract from the diary of Dr Jones: his return to Glen Tullochp. 123
14 Interview with Dr Alfred Jones: his meeting with Mr Peter Maxwell and Sheikh Muhammadp. 133
15 Peter Maxwell is interviewed for the Time Off column of the Sunday Telegraph, 4 Septemberp. 150
16 Interview with Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbotp. 156
17 Extract from Hansardp. 169
18 The termination of the employment contract of Dr Jonesp. 176
19 Correspondence between Captain Robert Matthews and Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbotp. 190
20 Intercepts of al-Qaeda email trafficp. 203
21 Extract from Hansardp. 207
22 Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: he visits the Yemenp. 209
23 Extract from Hansardp. 232
24 Correspondence between Ms Chetwode-Talbot and herselfp. 234
25 Extract from Peter Maxwells unpublished autobiography, A Helmsman at the Ship of Statep. 239
26 Script of TV pilot for Prizes for the Peoplep. 249
27 Extract from Peter Maxwells unpublished autobiographyp. 256
28 Evidence of a marital crisis between Dr and Mrs Jonesp. 262
29 Interview with Dr Alfred Jones: dinner at the Ritzp. 273
30 Dr Jones fails to find a date in his diary to meet Mrs Jonesp. 293
31 Extract from Peter Maxwells unpublished autobiographyp. 297
32 Dr Joness testimony of events that occurred at the launch of the Yemen salmon projectp. 313
33 Conclusions of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committeep. 326
Glossary of terms Used in the Extractsp. 329