Solitary by Zev Bagel

When asked to review Bagel’s new novel, it was a task I was eager to do. Recently I had an opportunity to chat with Bagel about Solitary, prior to publication, which is based on true events. He told me of an Iranian friend who shared the plight of a good man caught up in the Iranian Revolution. We discussed his unique approach to telling the story. The main character is fictional while the supporting character is real except for the name change to protect family still living in Iran.

Solitary is the recipient of the David Adams Richards Prize in the WFNB’s writing competition.   This is a comment made by the judge.

The novel is ambitious: its complex settings and backdrop- the fall of the Shah and the Iranian Revolution-are exactingly researched and conveyed in parallel storylines.

The story begins with the fictional author, Duncan Lindsay, in solitary confinement. He has been arrested in Iran on false charges of spying. Bagel’s skills as a storyteller shine with each page. You will feel the loneliness, the desperate need for outside contact, the hopelessness of trying to measure time. He maintains his sanity by remembering his wife and children and happy moments back in Calgary and his hopes of being released.

Lindsay hears an odd noise from a cell next to his. Is it his imagination? No, it is the scraping of a tool boring through the concrete. The prisoner next to him has fashioned a digging tool and has broken through to Lindsay’s cell. A voice whispers through the tiny aperture. Lindsay is reluctant at first to answer, unsure of the voice owner’s intentions. But the need for human contact forces him to respond.

We meet Hamid (not his real name). A system for communicating is born. Throughout the exchange, we discover the events leading to Hamid’s incarceration. He wants his story to be told. Both Lindsay and Hamid relish the daily exchange, relief from the boredom. They share their backgrounds, their hopes for tomorrow. The novel goes on to tell us of Hamid’s family, their support for the Shah and the harsh treatment handed out by the Iranian authorities under Ayatollah Khomeini.

I truly enjoyed reading this story. The writing is assertive and well researched. I had high hopes when I began to read Bagel’s novel. I was not disappointed.

Solitary is due for release in April and will be available at Chapters/Indigo after that time, as well as Tidewater Books in Sackville and Westminster Books in Fredericton, with readings/signings at several stores and the Ax Centre in Sussex. It can also be purchased at 

Zev Bagel was born in England, where he lived a more or less productive life under an assumed name. Then he found the love of his life, and moved to Canada in 1993. In Calgary, he discovered a new passion in my work, and founded the Emotional Fitness Institute. Writing has been a part of Zev for thirty years. He’s the author of 17 books of non-fiction, including a Canadian award winner for The 9 Steps to Emotional Fitness. Recently, as Zev Bagel, he has turned to fiction and loves it, with six novels completed or in progress.

Growing up in South Branch, Allan Hudson was encouraged to read from an early age by his mother who was a schoolteacher. He lives in Dieppe, NB, with his wife Gloria. He has enjoyed a lifetime of adventure, and travel and uses the many experiences as ideas for his writing. He is an author of action/adventure novels, historical fiction and a short story collection. His short stories – The Ship Breakers & In the Abyss – received Honourable Mention in the New Brunswick Writer’s Federation competition. He has stories published on, The Golden Ratio and his blog - South Branch Scribbler. 

2 thoughts on “Solitary by Zev Bagel”

  1. A clear review! The story sounds riveting. You identify good story telling style and solid research — important in the delivery of such a story.

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