A memorable read
Here is a recommendation from Alan in Huddersfield. He read the book 10 years ago but has not forgotten its impact – it’s harrowing but demonstrates the amazing strength of the human spirit. The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth is the story of Alexander Bayliss, a British citizen arrested for spying in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. Presumed dead by the British Government, he survives 20 years in a Soviet labour camp. When he is eventually freed from the gulag in the 1970s he finds he has no reason to return to the West. The Industry of Souls was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1998.
Martin Booth was born in Lancashire in September 1944 and spent much of his childhood in Hong Kong. He published thirteen novels and five works for children. His first real success, in 1985, was Hiroshima Joe, based on the life of a real down-and-out Briton who had survived the Nagasaki atomic raid. Novels include The Humble Disciple (1992) and Islands of Silence (2002) his final work. He also scripted several wildlife documentaries including David Attenborough’s Wildlife on One. He died on 12th February 2004.
In The Guardian obituary, Alan Brownjohn commented:
Booth’s fiction continues and reinvigorates a tradition – Buchanesque might be the word if the settings, values and dates were not so different – of well-made, well-documented storytelling in which the detail is grippingly authentic: take the small arms in A Very Private Gentleman (1991), or the pre-first world war railway compartments in the last novel, Islands Of Silence (2002). These novels can be read to find out things, as well as enjoy the pace, prose and brisk intelligence.