Singing in the Lifeboat

By .

by Ian Bain.

Chasing an alcoholic father around the UK – and attending nine schools in the process – may not have been the best start to life for Ian Bain. But it certainly gave him a taste for adventure. By 23, the young Scot had sailed around the world a couple of times, risked jail as a big-time booze smuggler in India and worked as the Buenos Aires correspondent of The Economist. Then, after a decade as a journalist in London with some of Britain’s biggest newspapers, life really got interesting.

Ian’s own slide into drink and despair took him to the Arabian Gulf in the belief that living there would be dry in every sense. It wasn’t. Fired twice by local newspapers, he checked himself into a Dubai psychiatric ward where he was shocked to see patients handcuffed to the water pipes and guards with batons. Not the kind of rehab he’d imagined.

Emerging sober but broke, Ian talked a benevolent bank manager into lending him just enough to start his own public relations company. The firm’s birth pangs were both painful and comical and could have ended abruptly when Ian was threatened with deportation. But he built the business into one of the most successful PR consultancies in the Middle East with clients such as General Motors, Airbus, Samsung, Emirates Airline and the Government of Dubai.

Commercial success didn’t curtail Ian’s affection for adventure. Helping to smuggle an Arab rally driver across tightly controlled European borders was hardly conducive to a quiet life. Nor was narrowly avoiding capture as Saddam’s forces moved to seize Kuwait airport. There were business risks too, like the gamble he took in resigning a million-dollar-a-year PR account.

Regardless of acclaim as a writer and PR strategist, Ian carried a secret shame through his long career: an entrenched belief rooted in his turbulent childhood that he wasn’t – and never would be – good enough. It got to the point where he gave away large amounts of money because he felt he didn’t deserve to have it, and failed to collect fees from clients for the same reason.

Eventually, Ian gave up the business and the comfortable life in Dubai to focus on healing the deep emotional wounds of his early years.  And there began another remarkable adventure.

SINGING IN THE LIFEBOAT is the poignant, often funny, and immensely readable story of a man searching for himself.


“Written with warmth, charm and a great deal of humour. Not only a memoir, but an homage to times gone by. I was captivated by Mr Bain’s reminiscences, and his skill as a professional writer shines through in every paragraph.” – RJ Ellory, multi-award-winning author of A Quiet Belief in Angels and a dozen other best-sellers.

“Unsettlingly honest.” – Brian Freemantle, best-selling author of the Charlie Muffin series of espionage novels.

“Really excellent writing and compelling story-telling. Ian Bain displays a journalist’s eye for the telling detail as he lays his life bare in this extremely readable memoir. From a broken childhood via Fleet Street and alcoholism to business success in the Middle East and finally self-discovery, Bain tells it all with forensic honesty and a deal of good humour.” – Richard McNeill, author of What Genius Wrote This?

“This is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary man. An impoverished Scottish upbringing and an alcoholic absentee father dealt Ian Bain a rotten hand. But he progressed from a junior reporter at fifteen, merchant seaman and big-time booze smuggler to night editor of a South American daily newspaper at twenty-three and a Fleet Street career before heading for Dubai. Fired for his drunken exploits, he sobered up to launch what became one of the most successful PR firms in the Middle East, later embarking on a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Ian’s story is poignant, funny, startling and beautifully written.” – Tony Boullemier, author of The Little Book of Monarchs.

“Ian Bain tells a gripping story with drama and a keen sense of the absurd. He’s experienced the rougher side of journalism and the smooth and sometimes not-so-smooth side of public relations, and he casts a sharp, ironic eye on each of them. There’s the tough personal story of a writer’s life here – the story of a professional, told by a professional. You finish the book with a deep breath, and the feeling that you’ve been in the company of a good friend.” – Andrew Taylor, author of Books That Changed the World and others.

“Ian Bain had a tough upbringing and a rollercoaster life. This is the unvarnished memoir of a survivor.” – Brian Izzard, author of Glory and Dishonour and others.