Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fictional Detectives of the 21st Century

When we think 'fictional detectives', we usually have legends like Sherlock Holmes or Byomkesh Bakshi in mind. Needless to say, we will continue to revere them for centuries to come. 

However, in this digital age, is there a new fictional detective who makes your crime-thriller unputdownable? 
Quite a few names have been gaining popularity in the world of crime fiction since the late 20th century.  

1. Cormoran Strike: Private detective Strike made his debut in Robert Galbraith aka J.K Rowling's ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ in 2013 and soon became a popular name among mystery lovers across the world. 'The Silkworm’, where Strike was called upon to investigate the mysterious murder of a novelist was a runaway hit too. His third case - 'A Career of Evil' is slated for an October 2015 release.

2. Galileo:  A Physics Professor with an uncanny ability to crack impossible cases, Detective Galileo was introduced in the brilliant suspense thriller – ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ (English version published in 2011). Brainchild of the Japanese author Keigo Higashino, the Galileo novels are racy, gripping, and unputdownable.

3.   Kay Scarpetta: The keenly observant Scarpetta debuted with Patricia Cornwell’s ‘Postmortem’ in 1990. This Italian sleuth started her career as a chief medical examiner and later became a private forensic consultant. 
‘The Depraved Heart’ (2015) is the latest Scarpetta novel with cutting-edge forensic investigations.

4. Alex Cross – Like Scarpetta, psychologist and Police Detective, Afro-American Alex Cross is also not a new name in the detective world. Introduced in James Patterson’s ‘Along Came a Spider’ in 1993, Cross is highly intelligent, compassionate, and known for his ill luck with women. Watch out for his latest book ‘Hope to Die’ (2015)

5. John Rebus: Detective Inspector John Rebus is Ian Ranklin’s creation, first seen in ‘Knots and Crosses’ (1987). The unconventional lifestyle and pessimistic attitude added to Rebus’ charm. 
Though Ranklin announced Rebus’ retirement in ‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’ (2013), the Scottish Inspector continues to be hugely popular.

6. Thomas Lynley: Created by the American author Elizabeth George, British detective Inspector Lynley first appeared in 1988 in a novel titled ‘A Great Deliverance’. Several of Lynley’s mysteries were adapted into a TV series. 
‘A Banquet of Consequences’ (2015) is the latest addition to the Lynley mystery series.

7. Mitin Mashi: Created by the versatile Suchitra Bhattacharya, Indian detective Pragya Paromita, better known as Mitin Mashi made her debut in the Bengali novel ‘Palabar Path Nei’. Mitin is a 21st century young, inquisitive detective, who solves complex mysteries along with Tupur, her niece. Some of her super-hit stories like ‘Arakiel Diamond’ have been translated into English. With Bhattacharya’s untimely demise, it is unfortunate that we won’t get to read any new books on Mitin Mashi.

8. Vish Puri: In 2009, English writer Tarquin Hall created Vish Puri, the most private investigator in India. Set in India, ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ is the first book in the Vish Puri series and establishes our protagonist as an old-fashioned, methodical, and quick-witted Punjabi detective. The other books in the Vish Puri series are equally engaging and have earned critical acclaim.

9. Avraham: Crime writer Dror. A Mishani's ‘The Missing File’ (first published in Hebrew in 2011) introduced Israeli Police Inspector Avraham to readers. Exceptional attention to detail and compelling characterization resulted in the growing popularity of the Avraham crime series. ‘The Man Who Wanted to Know’ is Mishani's latest Avraham novel. (The English version will only be available in 2016).

10. Niki Marwah: Indian author Swati Kaushal created the character of Niki Marwah in her crime thriller titled ‘Drop Dead’ (2012). 
Police Detective Marwah is daring, rebellious, and has featured in two fast-paced murder mysteries until now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writer to Author - A Continuous Journey!

Baby Steps
When I started writing my book The Sinister Silence, I had titled it Silenced. I had intended to write a love story. However, I do not remember exactly when I started to kill some of my characters. At the risk of sounding sadistic, I admit that I enjoyed the process. Soon after, I was writing a murder mystery. 

Plot and Characterization
I was happy with my writing – it transported me to a world of my own. I could set my own rules or decide against any, my characters conducted themselves the way I wanted. If they acted up, I let them. As I explored them more, especially my protagonists, I had a better understanding of their expectations from me. I did not need to put everything I knew about them in my book. Nevertheless, getting to know them was a refreshingly novel experience.

Edit, Edit, Edit
When I finally completed writing, I was thrilled. I started editing my book and in the process, there were several cuts and omissions. I requested my family and a couple of close friends to read the book too. Receiving different perspectives on the same book was a HUGE learning experience. I loved the fact that my characters had behaved differently with different readers J.

Get Published
I knew what the next logical step was - to get published. All that I needed to do was to send my manuscript to publishers. Once selected, I would see my name in print in the following two or three months.
Ah - wake up, my inner voice nudged.

Just the Beginning
As I initiated the process, I realized that writing is one thing. But getting published is a different ballgame altogether. Simply writing your book is not enough. You need to familiarise yourself with writing impactful query letters, taut book synopses, and engaging sample chapters – and neatly stitch them together in a book proposal. Some publishers will only accept submissions via literary agents – so factor that in too. All in all, if you are a greenhorn in the publishing industry, you have to invest time in research, learning, and unlearning. Gradually, you will evolve through trial and error. There is no shortcut to getting your book published.

Never Stop Writing
Once you set the ball rolling, do not put your life on pause. Meet friends, interact with people, and if possible – get started with your next book. If not, at least write 250-500 words every day. You do not need to share with anyone – but just write for yourself. When writers are in the process of becoming authors, sometimes, they give up writing… because they are waiting to get published. I did that too and it is a horrible thing to do!

The more time you spend away from writing, the double the time and effort you will need to get back to it. If the writer’s block is real bad, at least stick to reading.

Be Patient
The getting-the-right-publisher process may take months…sometimes years. It is tedious and sometimes heart-breaking. But never give up and never lose faith in your ability to write. Even though this sounds clich├ęd – when there is a will, there is always a way. Just stay calm and keep writing.

My book The Sinister Silence will be published in November 2015.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some not-so-good days!

I would have liked my first post of 2015 to have been happier and livelier. But I guess writers have their bad days too, which may not be related to writing. The ideal thing to do during those times is to lie low and sharpen your claws. Hibernating is important when you want to bounce back all energized and positive. When you are spending time with yourself, one or more of the following work wonders.

1. A good book: Always have a good book by your side, for all days...good and bad. On good days, they will make you happier. On bad days, they will uplift your spirits. Some people prefer reading the same book over and over, especially on days they don't feel sunny. That works! For me, a Paulo Coelho book should be within reach, whether I am at home or travelling. Currently, I also have a very interesting 'The Constant Art of Being a Writer' by N.M Kelby with me. It lists some simple, yet detailed steps to becoming the writer you want to be. These kind of books discipline you when bad days distract you.

2. A soulful song: Whether you can sing well or not is irrelevant. In school, we used to sing a lovely song in Class I. The lines go like this:
Every body has a song
Every body can sing
All you have to do is try
Even rusty bells ring
Then further referring to the throat are the lines: Set it free now, let it be now, sing a song to me.
A good song often spoils a bad day and I just love that.

3. A notepad and pen: Doesn't matter what you write but when you let your thoughts flow freely, it is liberating and often helps you accept the situation you are in and plan 'what next'. You can stay distracted for a bit by surfing the Internet, but the bugs will be back to bite you when you are offline. As opposed to that, the notepad and pen will eagerly await your story, whenever you are ready.

4. A gooey chocolate: It has an immediate effect on the mind, the heart, the soul. It boosts your sugar levels. So unless you are diabetic, a chocolate or a chocolateyy pastry or icecream is highly recommended. Even people who don't like chocolates have felt good after eating one during their bad/sad day.

5. A brisk walk: Even better if you are able to run. Just enjoy the beauty of the nature. Once in a while blink when you appreciate the sunset, a unique leaf or flower, a happy bird...anything. Closing your eyes for a fraction of a second will help you capture the moment in your mind's camera. Don't try this if your mood is sour due to high fever or any physical ailment.