The Stowaway - In Development

A Globe 100 Book | Nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award

About the Author

After graduating in 1985 from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where he wrote satirical articles for the arts paper, Hough worked briefly in advertising before becoming a journalist. For about a dozen years, he wrote for such magazines as Toronto Life and Saturday Night before turning to books. Hough’s first book was originally intended to be a biography of Mabel Stark, a promiscuous and ribald 1920s lion tamer for Ringling Brothers Circus. Due to a general lack of documentation on Stark, Hough decided to write a novel instead. Published to rave reviews in 2001, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark was shortlisted for both the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and the Trillium Book Award and was sold into the US, the UK and at least twelve other countries. It has been in development for a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet in the role of Stark.

Like The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, The Stowaway began as a non-fiction book project. After following the story in the news, Hough contacted the Filipino crewmen who courageously protected the life of a Romanian stowaway. “I phoned up the Filipino crew members in Halifax and … I couldn’t believe that no one was writing about their story. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted the surviving stowaway’s story. I wanted the reader to root for the guy,” he said in an interview with the Calgary Herald. After he spent a year tracking the stowaway down, Hough’s plan to write a non-fiction account was quashed by the Romanian’s refusal to talk for less than thirty thousand American dollars. Undeterred, Hough decided to write a work of fiction based on actual events. Published in March 2004, The Stowaway has garnered critical praise and has sold in the US, the UK, Holland, Germany and Sweden. Of the experience of writing The Stowaway, Hough says: “In my more optimistic moments, I tell myself I have used the novel in the way it was used in the days of Dickens or Thackeray: to dissect current events. In my less optimistic moments, I feel that I have, by inventing the central character in a non-fiction storyline, somehow misbehaved.” After swearing to never again base a novel on a true story, Hough is currently working on a purely fictional story about a Russian mail-order bride.

His work is published internationally by Penguin Random House. Hough lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.

The Stowaway

The year is 1996. Five years after the Romanian Revolution, people are still hungry, oppressed, and sickened by the way in which the country is run by Communist party cronies. Young Romanian men start leaving in droves, resorting to any means possible to reach America. Most often, this amounts to stealing away on a container ship.

Twenty-four year old Daniel Pacepa leaves his tiny village, losing what little money he has during a night of carousing in Bucharest. After awakening in a drunk tank, he meets another Romanian named Georghe Mihoc. With little money, they work their way across Europe, relying on nothing but their own cunning.

As Daniel and Gheorghe work their way across Europe, two Romanian stowaways are found aboard a container ship called the Maersk Dubai. The ship’s Chinese officers put both stowaways into the sea, where they presumably drown. This shocks the Filipino crew members, who anxiously weigh their options as the ship visits various ports of call in North America before crossing back to its final port of call, the Spanish city of Algecirus in Europe. Meanwhile, after considerable misadventure, Daniel and Gheorge also arrive in Algecirus, where they plan to steal aboard a container ship bound for North America.

In Algecirus, Daniel and Gheorghe have been posing as Christians in order to live for free at a hostel for devout travellers called El Faro. After one failed attempt to board a ship, they leave El Faro in the middle of the night to hide on a container ship berthed in the city’s chaotic port yards. This ship is the Maersk Dubai.
Once on board, the two split up, agreeing to reveal themselves in two days. Alcohol withdrawal forces Gheorghe to leave his enclosure early and after fighting with the officers, he too ends up in the ocean – dead. Shortly after, a Filipino bosun named Rodolfo Miguel discovers Daniel and makes the decision not to reveal him to the ship’s captain.

Rodolfo hides Daniel in a buoyancy tank in the bottom of the ship and works with other crew members to sneak the stowaway food and water. After days on the open sea, Daniel is on the verge of both madness and discovery when the Canadian Coast Guard seizes the ship as it nears the Canadian Coastal Waters.
That night, Daniel is billeted in a Holiday Inn in downtown Halifax, where he is instructed to stay put until various police agencies have finished interviewing him. Instead, he flees. In the closing scene, he begins the final leg of his trek to America.

“Carefully researched … A rare and powerful example of human decency triumphing over amoral self interest … The Stowaway takes us on a fascinating and instructive journey.”
— National Post

“It’s a gripping yarn, a different kind of tale of good versus evil … Hough said he wanted to write an ‘adventure story.’ That’s an understatement. It is really a thriller, a tale Alfred Hitchcock undoubtedly would have loved to turn into a creepy film.”
— The Ottawa Citizen