Murder Most Indian with Vaseem Khan and Alex Khan at West Barnes Library @VaseemKhanUK @alexkhanauthor @MertonLibraries

Murder Most Indian Poster

With a threatened heatwave this week, it seemed most appropriate to have books set in a hot country – far hotter than ours! Vaseem Khan and Alex Khan came to West Barnes Library to tell us about their India-set novels – Murder at the Grand Raj Palace and Bollywood Wives.

My first question was for them to tell us about their books. To help them (or maybe hinder) I gave them some props to help describe their stories. Alex had a toy Mercedes car, a picture of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy along with a copy of Pride and Prejudice and a red rose. At the beginning of Bollywood Wives, the main character,  Zara Das, has just stepped out of a white Mercedes to attend the premiere of her latest Bollywood movie. Minutes later, her car explodes. Someone is trying to kill her. To keep her safe, she and the cast of her new film based on Pride and Prejudice are moved to London. Despite staying in a 7 star hotel with personal security, someone manages to leave a red rose full of blood on Zara’s bed.

 

Vaseem had a picture of an Indian painting, a little elephant and some ornate bangles which represented wedding jewellery. Inspector Chopra is called to discreetly investigate the suspicious death of an American billionaire at the Grand Raj Palace hotel. Not long before his death, the American had bought India’s most expensive painting. Chopra does his best to be discreet but it’s a little hard with a baby elephant in tow! Meanwhile, Chopra’s wife, Poppy, is a bit cross with her husband who’s showing no interest in celebrating their wedding anniversary. She manages to get a suite at the hotel to be nearer to him and ends up involved in a missing bride case. Can she find the bride before the wedding?

There’s a lot going on at the Grand Raj Palace because a film is also being made. It’s not a Bollywood movie though but Tollywood. Vaseem and Alex enlightened us on the Indian film industry. Tollywood is based in South Indian and the language is Tamil. Bollywood is based in Mumbai and because of the Indian diaspora, it’s Bollywood that’s known more around the world. In the past, the films didn’t really have a genre. They were a mixture of thriller, romance, comedy and a very long death scene usually followed by a big song and dance routine.

 

As well as the Indian film industry, the other link between the two books is hotels. Both have top star hotels with no CCTV in the corridors of the most expensive suites. Was this a writer’s dream? It certainly made it easier for both writers for events to occur. It was hard to know who had been able to access the American billionaire’s suite to kill him in Murder at the Grand Raj Palace or who had left the rose in Zara’s room in Bollywood Wives. Vaseem knows first hand about upmarket hotels in India because he was a hotel management consultant for ten years in Mumbai.

Another question I had was about genre and being labelled in a particular sub-genre. Was it helpful or not? Although Bollywood Wives has a fantastic thriller at the heart of the plot, it is (as its title suggests) quite erotic and has been put in that category on Amazon. Alex doesn’t mind too much but it has prevented him from advertising it on Facebook in any way. Vaseem gets very hot under the collar about the term ‘Cosy Crime’, a label often given to Crime books that feature animals. Having spent 10 years in Mumbai, Vaseem is keen to include the reality of India. In his debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, Vaseem takes his readers into the Mumbai slums where 6 or 7 people live in one room with no sanitary conditions and there’s 1 doctor for 10k people. In his latest book, there is a very tragic event based on a real-life event in India. I found it incredibly moving when I read it. Definitely not cosy.

 

I had lots more questions but it’s not easy to remember the answers as I couldn’t take notes. But since this was our last event before the summer break, I asked Vaseem and Alex for their recommended summer reads. Alex has just finished reading The Pool House by Tasmina Perry – a sexy, dark thriller. Vaseem has been a judge for the Betty Trask Awards this year and his recommendation is The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh, described by Margaret Atwood as ‘a dark, sinister fable’. I chose The Chain by Adrian McKinty and my review will be out on 17th July for the blog tour but it’s one of the most gripping stories I’ve read this year.

I’d like to thank Vaseem and Alex for trekking across London to our little library and to the Friends of West Barnes Library who hosted the event. And thanks to my daughter who takes all the photos. To find out more about the authors and buy their books, just click on their names.

Vaseem Khan

Alex Khan or Alex Caan

 

We’re having a break now until Tuesday 1st October when we’ll be back with ‘Death on the Beach’ with Mark Hill and William Shaw.

 

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June First Monday Crime with @1stMondayCrime @TimWeaverBooks @TheAngelaClarke @doug_johnstone @HaningtonPhan @JakeKerridge @Marnie_Riches @HowardLinskey @ElodieITV @ameranwar @crimethrillgirl @TheTomWood

It was a very muggy evening last night in old London Town. We might not have had a State Banquet to attend but we had a feast of books instead. Aside from our wonderful panel of Doug Johnstone, Angela Clarke, Tim Weaver and Peter Hanington, we also had Summer Blind Book Date, hosted by Marnie Riches with Elodie Harper, Howard Linskey, Steph Broadribb, Amer Anwar and Tom Wood! Just a few authors! Let’s start with the panel, moderated by Jake Kerridge.

Jake asked the authors to tell us about their books.

Tim Weaver’s new novel, No One Home, is the 10th book in the David Raker series. Raker is a private detective and is called in to investigate the disappearance of the inhabitants of a small (fictional) Yorkshire village. Tim realised he couldn’t have too many people going missing because of creating all their back stories. He originally had 15 but dropped it down to 9. As he’s written so many books now, he’s always having to think about how to make the story different from last time. He’s not a planner and prefers to have the story evolve as he writes. There’s a parallel plotline in the book set in the US in 1985. Tim was influenced by the Night Stalker (an American serial killer) for this aspect of the story.

Angela Clarke is the author of the Social Media trilogy (Follow Me, Watch Me and Trust Me). Her latest novel, On My Life, is a standalone. Jenna appears to have the perfect life with a wonderful fiancé and fabulous home but her life is shattered when her step-daughter is murdered and her partner is missing. The police believe Jenna’s responsible. She’s charged and found guilty. At her prison medical, she discovers she’s pregnant. Angela first visited a women’s prison with Helen Cadbury. She saw a woman with a young child but had no idea that some women could keep their babies with them. There are approximately 1k pregnant women in jail but only 64 mother and baby places. The women have to appear before a panel without any help or representation to ask to keep their babies. If they’re turned down, the babies are removed soon after birth and either go to a family member or to Social Services. If a woman is allowed to keep her baby, she only does so until the child is 18 months and then they’re separated. If a woman is released before the 18 months, then there’s no care package or clothes given for the baby. It’s a desperate situation and Angela was keen to highlight this in the book.

Jake introduced Doug Johnstone as ‘an overachiever’ since he has a PhD in Nuclear Physics. Doug is also the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers and will be playing Glastonbury! He also has a new book out called Breakers. It’s nothing to do with surfing but burglary or house-breaking. The story is set in one of the most deprived areas in Edinburgh and the main protagonist is Tyler, a 17 year old lad. He has a pretty dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and a drug-addict father, leaving him to care for his younger sister. As he’s quite small, he’s used by his older siblings to break into properties where a small window has been left open or is easy to open. He breaks into a large house in Morningside, which unfortunately for Tyler, belongs to a big criminal family. The inspiration for the story comes from when Doug’s house was burgled and he wondered how small someone would have to be to get in through a skylight. With Breakers, Doug has tried to merge Noir with domestic dramas. Like Angela, Doug has also done some work in prisons and young offenders institutions. He certainly hadn’t planned on writing a story that would brow-beat readers but he wanted to show how a funding collapse for support groups was affecting teenagers.

Peter Hanington’s second novel, A Single Source, is also based on real, desperate events. Set in Egypt, Eritrea and London in 2011, it looks at the Arab Spring and the refugee crisis. As a journalist, Peter would see (and still does) a whole stream of news stories. Depending on what the main stories are of the day, a lot of smaller items go unnoticed. The band width for news is small. And it’s those stories that Peter wanted to focus on. His main character, William Carver, is an old-fashioned journalist. Despite his flaws, he has a nose for a good story. Many of Peter’s colleagues like to think they’re the inspiration for Carver but the real role model is a journalist called Terry Messenger, who used to go out and look for stories if none were coming in. Although A Single Source is set in 2011, the issues raised are still very relevant, especially refugees. Peter thinks it’s the biggest challenge to our humanity and he’s tried to write it as sympathetically as he can.

FM June 19.2

As all the authors have been journalists, in one form or another, Jake asked how much has being a journalist helped with writing fiction?

Doug thought it had prepared him well for writing fiction. It’s good for deadlines and there’s no writer’s block as otherwise you get sacked! It’s also good for editing and that has helped him write books that are ‘stripped to the bone’.

Tim on the other hand, writes very long books that have to be edited down! But as a journalist he has formed good habits of sitting down, 9-5, and getting on with the writing and hitting his word count each day.

Angela wrote columns, not in-house, so she worked at home. She learnt that she could ‘make shit up’ and have an opinion on anything. Exactly what you need for fiction.

Peter agreed that the discipline of writing to a deadline is helpful. He also likes it when he sees his name as a by-line and having your own book is the ultimate by-line.

 

There were a few more questions from Jake and the audience but I’m going to leave it there for the panel as I also need to tell you about Summer Blind Book Date!

Marnie Riches was our hostess with the ‘mostess’ and she gave us a ‘lorra lorra’ laughs. Our contestants were:

Howard Linskey – Ungentlemanly Warfare

Elodie Harper – The Death Knock

Amer Anwar – Brothers in Blood

Steph Broadribb – Deep Dirty Truth

Tom Wood – Kill For Me

FM June 19.1

They had to convince Marnie to take their book on holiday as her summer read. Now I have to confess that I didn’t write notes for this as I wanted to sit back and enjoy our authors squirming a little as Marnie gave them tasks to do. So this is from memory (and might be slightly wrong)!

First up, they either had to give us a bad poem/limerick or mime of their book. I have to say that for me, Elodie Harper won this round as she gave us a superb limerick. Steph did an impressive mime. Tom clearly didn’t get the memo and told us about his book in ‘free verse’ i.e. prose.

Second task was to tell us an anecdote about their novels. I was impressed most by Amer Anwar who told us a little research story. He asked to see round a butcher’s shop and in particular, the back of the shop. (I know exactly what scene this relates to!) Whilst in the back, Amer spotted a bone saw and wondered if it could be used to cut up a body. He made the mistake of asking the shop workers this and was then ushered out quite quickly. Howard Linskey’s new novel is set during WW2 and he took inspiration from some people who were buying an old farmhouse in Scotland and discovered a huge wartime bunker under the house.

The last task for our authors was to think of a suitable summer drink or snack that summed up their books. Howard went for champagne as there’s some romance in his story. Elodie went for Sex on the Beach. There isn’t necessarily any sex in the book but sex always sells. Amer thought a cold beer would go well with the curries from his story. Steph went for an old-fashioned cocktail – the fiery smoothness of bourbon, the zesty tang of orange juice and the sweetness of a cherry on the side. Tom opted for a Margherita for his Guatemala based novel.

Well, Marnie was won over by Amer’s cold beer and Steph’s impressive mime so she chose them both to be her summer holiday reads. Personally, my vote went to Elodie Harper for her superb limerick!

But the best thing for us readers, is that we’re the real winners! We’ve got lots of books to choose from for our summer holidays!

So that’s it from First Monday Crime for a few months. We’re taking an extended summer break and will be back on Monday 7th October! We hope you have a wonderful summer full of rest, books, good weather, books, lots of fun and even more books!

If you want to find out more about our authors and buy any of their books then just click on the author’s name.

Tim Weaver

Angela Clarke

Doug Johnstone

Peter Hanington

Marnie Riches

Howard Linskey

Elodie Harper

Amer Anwar

Steph Broadribb

Tom Wood