Paul Torday dead: 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' author's race against time

Writer had kept his cancer diagnosis private

Critics who always wondered why Paul Torday, whose first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen became an international hit in 2007, managed to produce a book a year throughout his retirement finally had their answer with news of the author’s death aged 67.

The businessman turned literary heavyweight never publicly disclosed that he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his debut was published to worldwide acclaim and his race to write what he called the “ultimate story” suddenly became more of a sprint.

His seven novels each explored a different theme ranging from alcoholism, romance, schizophrenia and racism, but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen remained his most famous selling half a million copies. The book gave hope to every aspiring author that they can produce a bestseller late in life. Published when he was 61, it was later turned into a film starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in 2011 whose premiere Mr Torday was too ill to attend.

Another novel looks to set to transfer to the big screen with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes acquiring the film rights to The Girl on the Landing. His most recent book, Light Shining in the Forest, a crime thriller about abducted children set in the north-east of England, was published earlier this year and he continued writing until he was no longer capable, leaving an unfinished eighth novel.

Mr Torday was in fact only 16 when he won his first literary award: a national poetry competition sponsored by the Daily Mail and he used the winnings to pay for his first foreign holiday. He continued to write poetry for the Little Word Machine magazine and even produced two novels in his 20s but hid them in a drawer rather than seek publication. His family were unaware of his efforts.

His time spent working in the oil and gas industry in the 1990s inspired his debut novel - he was at a business meeting in Oman when he had the idea of creating a Yemeni sheikh who wanted to introduce salmon fishing to his desert homeland. Six months after sending the manuscript to an agent Mr Torday, a keen fisherman himself, received the call to say the work had been the subject of furious bidding.

Kirsty Dunseath, publishing director at Weidenfeld and Nicolson Fiction, said: “In many ways Paul Torday invented his own genre - his extraordinary fiction was filled with warmth and a wry, humane wit.

“He was a gentle observer of the foibles of human nature and our social behaviour. He wanted to entertain but his novels were also infused with a deep social awareness, exploring issues such as political expediency, alcoholism, mental illness, class and our national heritage.

“He was a very gentle man, thoughtful and considered in everything he did and it was a privilege and a joy to have worked with him.”

Mr Torday died at home in Northumberland on Wednesday and leaves his wife Penelope, ex- wife Jane, sons Piers and Nicholas and stepsons Jonathan and Charles.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
The Vienna State Opera
opera
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'
musicLilly Wood and Robin Schulz bag number one single
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories