Anne Bonny #BookReview Smoke And Ashes by @radiomukhers Abir Mukherjee 5* Genius #NewRelease #Historical #CrimeFiction #Calcutta @HarvillSecker ‘Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens’

cover
Smoke And Ashes by Abir Mukherjee 
Review copy
Synopsis:

**From the winner of the 2017 CWA Historical Dagger Award**

India, 1921. Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

Set against the backdrop of the fervent fight for Indian independence, and rich with the atmosphere of 1920s Calcutta, Smoke and Ashes is the brilliant new historical mystery in this award-winning series.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of this series and If you haven’t read A Rising Man or A Necessary Evil, then you need to add them to your wish list asap. The series is phenomenal and historical crime fiction at its finest. It was my 126th read of the year so far and the 13th edition to the 5* Genius list. The era, characters and location that Abir Mukherjee has created within the series is sheer brilliance.
*I am a shameless fangirl*

The series is set post ww1 in Calcutta, India. The main characters are British Captain Sam Wyndham and Indian Sgt (Surrender-not) Banerjee. The novels are historical fiction, but there is always a grisly crime to be unearthed in the British Raj. I must admit that with this novel, I really felt the historical aspect of the novel had stepped up its game. The depth of historical detail really added to the story. India’s social and political climate is described in a fantastic method, letting the characters lead the scenes.
This is not a history lesson; the author simply invites you into 1921 Calcutta.

The novel opens with Sam fleeing the Imperial police force, blade in hand and covered in blood. He is fleeing a Tangra opium den and is certainly feeling the effects, shall we say. I began to wonder how bad is Sam’s opium addiction?
Is Sam going to be the murderer in this case?

‘Calcutta opium is best smoked ten feet below the corpses of half a dozen dead men’

Despite the police in pursuit, after the raid on the opium den, Sam manages to escape. But he can’t get out of his mind the dead body of the Chinese man he found. Why was the body so disfigured? Was this an opium ‘pipe dream’? Why was Commanding Officer Callaghan of Vice division raiding the den? Sam has so many questions as he falls asleep in a drug induced haze.

‘Calcutta was as flawed and dysfunctional as I was’ – Sam

When he awakes, late, as usual for Sam now. He finds Surrender-not has already left for work. He lights a cigarette and ponders his next course of action, over the body he found.

‘The Chinese were a law unto themselves. What they did to each other was none of my business’

In the background of the novel is the political protests of Mahatma Gandhi. It would appear the natives have tired of British rule and long for independence. Tempers are frayed, and the jails are full. With an impending visit from H.R.H Prince Edward scheduled for Christmas Day. Sam and surrender-not must ensure the streets are free from protestors.
Which will be no easy task, at all.

Lord Taggart, commissioner of the police for Bengal summons Sam to his office. He orders Sam and Surrender-not to deliver a message to Gandhi’s ‘chief rabble rouser’ – C.R Das that the organisation of congress volunteers is now banned. There are clear and spiteful threats issued, the natives must obey their British masters.

The theme of the British Raj and colonisation in general, makes this novel perfect for book groups. There are so many elements to debate. It is also easy to look back with the wisdom of hindsight. I spend many summer days at Osbourne House the summer home of Queen Victoria. It has an Indian room and there is evidence of Indian artefacts throughout. Queen Victoria was clearly impressed and inspired by Indian culture. I find it surprising that a culture for which she found so fascinating, she never visited. . .

Back to the novel and Sam. Not only is Sam battling his emotional past, with the loss of his wife Sarah. Annie makes a reappearance and he has an out of control opiate addiction. He eventually agrees to see a doctor and deal with his opiate addiction once and for all.

‘I preferred not to be reminded of the ghosts of Christmas past’ – Sam

With Das refusing to give in to Taggart’s demands. Sam is placed in the awkward position of delivering messages he no longer believes in or agrees with. . .

‘Tell him that I’ve no issue with arresting him, his family and every one of his supporters’ – Taggart

The British are in the difficult position of wanting to coerce the opposition via threats and intimidation and not wanting to make martyrs of them.
There will be no easy solution in British India.

Sam and Surrender-not are called to a crime scene at Shant-da’s medical clinic. Where they find the body of a young nurse Ruth Fernandez. Ruth’s corpse has the identical injuries as the Chinese victim at the opium den. But what links the murders? Ruth is a native from Goa but holds the role of military nurse. She openly practises her Christian faith. Are these murders political?
Has the non-violent protest suddenly turned to murder?

With the new murder and political tensions at an all time high, the British issue a military enforced curfew of 6pm. At times it felt that they did everything they could, to ignite the flames of riots.
Leaving Sam battling his personal opinions and professional responsibilities.

‘Maybe my penance was a life sentence’ – Sam

When another murder occurs, it is clear Calcutta has a serial killer on its hands and only one man knows the truth. Sam.

As said above the historical aspects are beautifully written and there is so much detail. Each political event, is broken down to be shown from both sides of the governmental powers. I wondered how the author would tackle the character of Gandhi and his political stance. What you discover is that Gandhi was a highly intelligent man, with a strategic mind. He meticulously planned his protests and lived by his convictions.
But I love the way Sam summarises the situation (and some of the finest writing might I add) . . .

‘To see a man as your enemy, you needed to hate him, and while it was easy to hate a man who fought you with bullets and bombs, it was bloody difficult to hate a man who opposed you by appealing to your moral compass’ – Sam

I was sad to see Surrender-not, firmly return to his role of side-kick. In the last novel I really felt his character gain such presence. Despite it being difficult to watch an intelligent man (must) take a back-seat to the British rule. Yet I respect the author for changing the style of each novel, keeping you the reader guessing and avoiding the huge error of repeating the same novel with just a different case.

Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens. I can even picture the atmospheric opening credits, as we glance around 1920s Calcutta. 5* Genius.

AM
Abir Mukherjee
Twitter
Website
My review and Q&A for, A Rising Man
My review and Q&A for, A Necessary Evil

#Review Q&A #ANecessaryEvil Abir Mukherjee @radiomukhers @HarvillSecker @Pegasus_Books 5* #Genius

Huge fan of this authors work! Here’s my post to celebrate the release of #2 in his, multi award nominated series!

Cover #2
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
Synopsis:

The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a moderniser whose attitudes – and romantic relationship – may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.

As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them…

My review:

Oh my days, this one has left me with such a huge #BookHangover! It was a novel that consistently engaged my interest and ticked all the boxes, of my favourite themes in the historical fiction genre! I am now left with the lonely and possibly lengthy wait for the next in this fabulous series! *dabs tears with tissue 🙂

The novel is set in 1920 India with Captain Wyndham and his faithful police partner Sgt surrender-not, hot on the heels of another complex case. Surrender-not is requested to visit the Crown Prince Adhir Singh of Sambalpore, having known each other previously from their schooling in Harrow. The Prince’s father being the 5th richest man in India, the poverty divide is a huge theme within this novel. Upon the joyful reunion, the Prince confesses to Surrender-not to having received threatening notes, left amongst his possessions. We meet the Colonel Skekar Arora and the ‘Dewan’ Prime Minister Dave. As they set out on their journey, in the Prince’s Rolls Royce, a shot fires out and the young Prince is left dead……

The relationship between Sam and Surrender-not, is based on very different life experiences and they complement each other perfectly. I find this so intriguing and it is rapidly becoming one of my favourite fictional police partnerships. Within this novel the character of Miss Annie Grant makes a return, but it does not draw the two police officers away from their roles and bond.

Sam and Surrender- not continue their investigations, make more difficult by the formation of the society that exists in Sambalpore and the Anglo/Sambalpore relations. Sam has no authority at Sambalpore and it is within this environment that it is Surredner-not’s moment to shine…….
They discover the notes left for the young Prince and their alarming content
“Your life is in danger, leave Sambalpore before the 27th day of Ashada”
It appears the Prince did not heed their advice.

At Sambalpore the depth of Indian culture, is fully explored and it makes for fascinating reading. From the Palace Of The Sun to the curse of Sambalpore, it is all explained with fascinating detail and intelligent insight. The issue of power/privilege so unevenly distributed is raised when relevant to the plot and helps the reader, to gather a full view of what life really was like in colonial India for both the Indians and British alike.

It is rumoured the Prince Adhir was in the midst of an affair with a young woman, not uncommon in the polygamy society that Sambalpore allows. However, when she is identified as a white woman named Katherine Pemberley, the story suddenly becomes much more complex. An era when British/Indian relationships are taboo for everyday citizens, a young Prince fell in love……..

When Sam attempts to interview the Prince’s wives and the wives of his father, he is met with disdain. For no one can diminish the sanctity of the Zenana. The harem of the wives, the relationships they navigate are beyond his comprehension. It isn’t long before Sam finds himself a ‘person non grata’ and recalled to Calcutta. Knowing they are onto something and with the mystery and secrets unfolding, Sam and Surrender-not must solve this case fast. Is this a religious act of violence? Is it an act of sabotage at the match between the prince and his white lover? Is his brother, Prince Punit at risk?

I cannot rate this novel, highly enough! There are so many terrific scenes that playout. Huge respect to the author for the brilliance of his ideas and knowing exactly what moments to place them in the novel itself. One of my favourite scenes has to be the royal tiger hunt on elephant back! It is without a doubt one novel; I would love to be shown as a TV series.
A huge 5* Genius and I look forward to the next novel in this amazing series!

 

Q&A:

Q) This novel, via a turn of events, offers the opportunity for Surrender-not to become more of a voice within the novel. Was this intentional and how was it inspired?

AM: Hi Abby, thanks for having me on your blog, and thank you for being such a great supporter of Sam and Surrender-not’s adventures.

A) You’re right. I was keen to develop Surrender-not’s role in the second novel. The action is set a year after A Rising Man and he and Sam have had a while to get to know each other. I think Surrender-not is now less star-struck than he used to be by Sam’s Scotland Yard past, and at the same time he’s becoming more confident in himself.

I’m not sure what the inspiration was exactly, just that I had a feeling that over time, the relationship between him and Sam should develop into one of equals. We’re not there yet, but he’s definitely started down that particular road.

To be honest, the most difficult part was getting the balance right. In the first draft, I think I made Surrender-not slightly too confident, which really didn’t sit well with either his rank or the fact that he was an Indian in a British dominated system. I pared him back a bit in the second draft and hopefully their relationship comes across as warm and authentic.

Q) The novel covers the harem of wives at Sambalpore. Which I was captivated by. I know from the authors note at the back of the novel, that this was inspired by a real life situation. Can you expand on this for the readers?

A) Absolutely. Before I started writing, I knew I wanted to set this book in the world of the Indian Maharajas, as they were such colourful characters and it was such a fascinating time. In their day, they were the richest men in the world, and many of them were considered to be gods by their subjects. They were polygamous, taking several wives and often having many concubines, all of whom lived in the harem, which could only be accessed by the maharajah and his eunuchs.

A) When I started researching the period though, I realised that I’d completely misunderstood the balance of power in these harems. I had a view of them as being pleasure palaces and places of debauchery, all for the benefit of some louche maharajah, but the truth is that these harems, cut off from the male world, were actually centres of power from which the maharanis, princesses and concubines wielded significant influence. These women often had investments in businesses and became wealthy in their own right, managing their affairs from within the harem.

Q) One thing, I loved was the theme of poverty/privilege inequality that existed in both British and Indian Colonial society. I felt this added an honesty to the novel and as you read along, you feel you are watching these scenes play out. Did you decide to include this all along, or was it where the story of Prince Adhir took you?

A) That’s a good question. I think it was probably the latter. It really was a fascinating time and place, and I’ve said, these maharajas were extremely wealthy. There are so many examples of their excesses. One came to London and bought every Rolls Royce in the showroom in Mayfair, transported them back to India and used them as garbage trucks, all because he thought the sales assistant had looked down on him because he was Indian. Another filled his swimming pool with Dom Perignon to celebrate the birth of a son; and all of this luxury was set in the midst of the huge poverty that the masses of Indians lived in. One of the interesting things though, is that their subjects didn’t seem to begrudge them their wealth.

Q) I personally think this series would make a fantastic TV series and is exactly the sort of novel, I would urge TV producers to look at, more diversity is desperately needed on our TV screens as well as in our novels. Is it something you hope for one day?

A) Well we’ve optioned the TV rights to a company called Big Talk Productions, which is part owned by ITV, but conversations have been really slow. I was contacted a few months ago by a big Hollywood TV star (I won’t say who) but he’d read the book and said he’d be interested in playing Surrender-not. As with anything to do with TV, things take a lot of time, and for the moment I’m not getting my hopes up!

Q) I absolutely loved a specific scene involving elephants, (Which I did not name in my review, due to spoilers). Although elephants remained actually a very small theme, it was amazing to see them in this novel. Was there an inspiration behind this?

A) Again, their inclusion was inspired by real events. They’re extremely smart animals and were trained for a range of uses, from hauling logs, to hunting, to warfare and carrying out executions. There is a report that at the funeral of one maharajah, his elephants actually did cry.

Q) I have to ask, as I am dying to know. Will there be a Sam and Surrender-not #3? Are we allowed any hints of themes or a working title?

A) There will indeed be a Book 3, and I’m due to hand in the first draft at the end of this month. It’s provisionally titled ‘Smoke and Ashes’ and is set in 1921. The action takes place back in Calcutta and the backdrop is Gandhi’s first real call for non-violent resistance against the British. It was a tumultuous time and into that febrile atmosphere, the British government decided that it would be nice to send the Prince of Wales’ on a visit to the city.

Without giving too much away, Sam has to investigate a series of killings which he is convinced are linked but which he can’t discuss with his superiors without the risk of losing his job.

Q) I know your family is hugely important to you, as noted in your dedication and acknowledgements, of both novels. What does Mrs Mukherjee think to the series and have your sons been able to read it yet?

A) My wife, Sonal, has been hugely supportive. As you know, Abby, I’m still doing the day job, which means the writing is relegated to late nights and weekends. That means less time with the family, and it’s something I feel quite guilty about. Sonal loves the series (or so she tells me) but I think she’s just amazed that her stupid husband might actually be not too bad at something!

Q) what are your author recommendations for reads in the historical fiction genre? And in particular novels set in India?

A) In terms of historical fiction, I’m a huge fan of Philip Kerr’s series featuring Bernie Gunther, a detective working in Nazi Germany, and also of Martin Cruz Smith’s novels featuring Arkady Renko, a detective in the Moscow police force during the Communist era. Both writers are among the best in the business, and their characters are sublime. What I like most is that you can learn a lot about the history of a period while still enjoying a great, page-turning read.

In terms of Indian historical fiction, I’d recommend The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell or Bhowani Junction by John Masters, which was made into a film in the sixties, staring Ava Gardner and Stewart Grainger.

Those were obviously written by Englishmen. If you wanted an Indian view of the period, you could try the Byomkesh Bakshi novels by Saradindu Bhattacharya, which were written in the 1920s. Byomkesh Bakshi is India’s answer to Sherlock Holmes, and like the Baker Street detective, Bakshi relies on his intellect to solve the mysteries that confront him.

*Huge thank you to Abir Mukherjee for agreeing to be featured on my blog in a Q&A. Thank you for the fantastic read, I wish you well in your success with this novel and I sincerely hope you win ALL the awards you have been nominated for 🙂

AM: Thank you so much, Abby, for having me on your blog. I’m really looking forward to seeing you at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival later this year!

AM
Abir Mukherjee
Authors links:
Web: https://www.abirmukherjee.com/
Twitter: @radiomukhers

#Review – A Rising Man, 5* Genius and Q&A with author, Abir Mukherjee. @radiomukhers #WaterstonesThrillerOfTheMonth

Super excited to feature this novel on my blog today and I can’t rate this book highly  enough! This novel has all the perfect ingredients of a brilliant 5* Genius read and it is no surprise to me, that Waterstones have chosen it as there thriller of the month for May!

cover #1

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

The synopsis:

India, 1919. Desperate for a fresh start, Captain Sam Wyndham arrives to take up an important post in Calcutta’s police force.

He is soon called to the scene of a horrifying murder. The victim was a senior official, and a note in his mouth warns the British to leave India – or else.

With the stability of the Empire under threat, Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee must solve the case quickly. But there are some who will do anything to stop them…

My review:

Britain, a Christian country where theft is not only illegal, it’s also considered a sin. So few modern brits, are aware of the thievery, of their ancestors. I urge you to read this novel. It’s not only a brilliant read but an education on the impact of colonialism. It just may shatter your illusions of the Empire!

This novel is historical crime fiction, set in 1919 India following a case with the Imperial Police Force. The protagonist Captain Sam Wyndham is a new arrival to Calcutta and a former Scotland Yard detective. Having known death and misery all his life and fresh from the battle scenes of the Great War he hopes to start a new life with his new posting. Partnered with Sgt ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee, a native of India and arrogant/bigoted Inspector Digby they are summoned to their first case.

A dead body has been found in a ‘gullee’ alley/open sewer adjacent to a brothel. The throat has been cut and the eyes have been pecked from the head. The corpse is that of Alexander MacAuley and he has a note stuffed in his mouth that reads “no more warnings English, blood will run in the street. Quit India”. MacAuley works for the Government in Bengal, who’s central job is to act as a peacekeeper between the British and the natives. Is this a political killing? If so who and why?

There are several comparisons between Calcutta and London, this helps you understand the setting much better. There is a genuine feel for the people, weather, buildings, atmosphere and the culture. You really get a sense for the weather with descriptions such as monsoon rains and steaming jungle humidity. There is one very significant paragraph where Sam can hear the Muezzins call to prayer at 5.30am. I lived in Cyprus, right on the border to the Turkish North, despite being an atheist myself, there is an incredible beauty in waking to hear the unity of people in prayer.

The novel is a very honest portrayal of the impact of colonialism on the natives. Something we gloss over or whitewash in British history, too often. The novel talks of the divide in race and also how inferiority/superiority has driven a division between two races of people. We see how wealthy businessmen are able to manipulate the Bengalis, purely motivated by greed. Upon arrival at the Bengal Club Sam notices a sign stating “no dogs or Indians beyond this point”. How did 150,000 Brits rule over 300 million natives? When it is assumed this is an assassination of a senior British official by native ‘terrorists’ I am forced to ask myself who are the real terrorists?

We slowly become aware that there is corruption and cover-ups leading right up to the peak of those in the colonial hierarchy. In Calcutta anyone can be bought for the right amount of Rupees, Brit or native! But what happens when a man discovers his morals? Is that a death sentence itself? When there’s an attempt to rob a local Darjeeling mail train and a train guard is killed, Sam becomes convinced there is a connection. I love the way that Sam constantly questions himself and his surroundings throughout the plot. Will Sam solve the case? Will ‘Surrender-not’ earn Sam and Digby’s respect? Does British justice, mean justice, only for the British?

I absolutely loved this novel. I am a huge fan of historical crime fiction and there is nothing quite like this, I have ever read before. Unique with its era and setting, this is one series to follow! Abir MuKherjee has managed to cleverly put together one of the finest novels I have read this year so far! Out of 83 read so far this year A Rising Man is my 8Th edition to the 5* Genius list! Very highly recommended! – 5* Genius.

Q&A:

AM: Hi Abby. Thanks for reviewing A Rising Man, and for having me on your blog.

Q) For the readers, can you give a summary of your background and your series?

A) My parents emigrated to the UK in the sixties and, though born in London, I grew up in the West of Scotland, which other than the climate, is a fantastic part of the world. However due to work, I’ve been an exile in London for the last seventeen years.

The series is set in India during the late British Raj and features Sam Wyndham, an ex-Scotland Yard detective who, having survived the First World War, ends up working for the Imperial Police Force in Calcutta primarily because it’s slightly preferable to suicide. He’s assisted by an Indian sergeant, Surendranath Banerjee, but his British colleagues can’t pronounce his name and so re-christen him ‘Surrender-not’.

I’m hoping that the series will chart the ups and downs of British India from 1919 to Indian independence in 1947 as seen through the eyes of these two men, but at the same time I expect there’ll be a lot of dead bodies along the way.

Q) One thing I absolutely loved about your novel, was the historical elements. What was the inspiration behind the era and setting? Why Calcutta?

A) I find the period of British rule in India a particularly fascinating place and time, unique in many respects and one that’s been overlooked, especially in terms of crime fiction. I think that period in history has contributed so much to modern India and Britain, and it was a time that saw the best and the worst of both peoples.

I made a conscious decision to set the series in Calcutta, not just because it was the place my parents came from, but it’s a fascinating city, unique in many respects and in the period that the series is set, it was the premier city in Asia, as glamorous and exotic a location as anywhere in the world. But it was a city undergoing immense change and it was the centre of the freedom movement, a hotbed of agitation against British rule. The history of Calcutta is the history of the British in India. Their presence still cries out from its streets, its buildings and in its outlook.

It would have been harder for me to write authentically while setting it in another Indian city. While I know Bombay and Delhi quite well, I don’t speak the language. Also, I don’t think either city had the same hothouse atmosphere that Calcutta had during the period.

Q) The two main protagonists Cpt Sam Wyndham and Sgt ‘surrender-not’ Banerjee, are very different. What was the thought process behind their characterisation?

A) That’s a great question. I think we have a tendency to view the period of the British Raj either through rose tinted spectacles, or to sweep that aspect of our history under the carpet. Similarly, Indians tend to view it primarily through the prism of Gandhi’s independence movement. I wanted to look at the period from a different angle and I felt the best way to do that was through the eyes of two individuals, one British and one Indian, but both unwedded to any preconceived notions. Sam comes to India as a jaded cynic, unwilling to swallow any preconceived notions his superiors might have about the natives, and Surrender-not, though Indian, is British educated. Both men are, to a degree, fish out of water.

Q) The novel is very detailed in regards of its honest portrayal of colonialism and the British Empire. What was your research process?

A) My family is from Calcutta, so there was a lot of asking of questions of old family members and friends. I also made a few trips to the city and that helped to get a sense of the place. During one visit, I was lucky enough to be given access to the Calcutta Police Museum where a lot of the police documents from the period are on exhibit. That was fascinating, as the Kolkata Police today has a rather ambivalent view of its own history during that time. In terms of research though, most of that was done sitting at home and trawling the internet.

Q) I have read many novels on colonialism, rather ashamedly more regarding Africa than India. I found this novel to be very educational, in terms of that you really feel you’re within the era. Was that your intention?

A) To a large extent, yes. The Raj period isn’t really taught in British schools. In fact, I learned more about German history in the nineteen twenties and thirties than I did about British history in the period. My impetus to write this book came from a desire to tell the story of a time and place which I felt neither British nor Indian sources did justice to.

At the same time, I didn’t want to write a history book, but rather a thriller that would tell its own story, set against the backdrop of that historical period.

Q) My teenage daughter is obsessed by Indian culture, the clothes, food and sights to see etc. She has made it quite clear, she intends to travel to visit India as soon as she is old enough. Are there any parts of Indian culture that you love, but couldn’t fit into the novel?

A) Loads, though not all of it good! I find Indian mythology quite fascinating. The pantheon of stories of gods and demons and heroic figures which has been built up over thousands of years is especially interesting. I’d love to explore some of that side of India in future books.

Q) A Necessary Evil #2 in the series is due out 1st June this year, can you give us any snippets of information about the plot?

A) The new book is set in 1920 and Sam and Surrender-not find themselves investigating the assassination of the son of a maharajah. Their enquiries lead them to the fabulously wealthy state of Sambalpore and before they know it, they’re in the middle of a case which has sinister repercussions for the whole kingdom.

In their time, the Indian maharajahs were the wealthiest men in the world and were revered almost as gods by many of their subjects. A lot of them were descended from warrior kings, but during the Raj they had little real power. As a result, a lot of them became feckless and debauched, spending their money on palaces, harems full of concubines and fleets of Rolls Royces. It just seemed a really colourful period in history and I was keen to see what Sam and Surrender-not would make of it.

Q) What was your journey from the original idea to publication?

A) My journey was a wee bit different from most debut authors’ tales of dedication and persistence, and I suppose it started as a bit of a mid-life crisis. I’m an accountant by profession and have spent the past twenty years in finance. I was thirty-nine, hurtling towards forty and I thought, maybe there might be more to life than accounting.

Then I saw an interview with Lee Child on BBC Breakfast where he talked about how, at the age of forty, he started writing, and I thought, why not? I’d always wanted to write a book but had never had the confidence, and as far as mid-life crises went, writing a novel seemed safer than buying a motorbike and piercing my ear.

I started writing A Rising Man in September 2013 and a few weeks later, I came across details of the Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition in the Telegraph, looking for new and unpublished crime writers. I tidied up the first few chapters, wrote the synopsis and sent off my entry.

A few months later, I got an e mail telling me I’d won and that Harvill Secker were going to publish my novel. Except I didn’t have a novel, only about thirty thousand rough words which didn’t always fit together. Fortunately, I had a wonderful editor and team at Harvill who, over the space of eighteen months, guided me and helped me to turn those words into a proper novel.

Q) Your novel has received huge recognition and praise, what has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) There have been so many great moments – holding the first copy of the book in my hands; seeing it in the shops; reading reviews in the papers; and meeting some of my heroes such as Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. To be honest though, the best moments have been the personal ones, such as seeing my late father’s name in the dedication and being invited to give a talk at my old school. I hadn’t been back there in over twenty years and it brought back so many memories. I also met up with some of my former teachers who are still there, and that was incredibly special.

Q) Will there be a #3 in the series, is this something currently being written?

A) There will indeed, and I’m currently writing it (though am way behind schedule). It hasn’t got a title yet, but it’s set in December 1921 and sees Sam and Surrender-not back in Calcutta, on the trail of a serial killer. The backdrop is Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaign of that year, when the Mahatma’s slogan was Freedom within the Year. That year is drawing to a close and tensions in the city are high. Into this charged environment, the British decide to send the Prince of Wales on a visit to India, arriving in Calcutta on Christmas Day.

*Huge thanks to Abir for being kind enough to take part in a Q&A on my blog and I wish you every success in your writing career 🙂
AM: It’s been my pleasure, Abby. Thanks once again for having me on!

AM
Photo credit: Nick Tucker

Authors Links:
Web: www.abirmukherjee.com
Twitter: @radiomukhers

For those of you who have already read and loved, A Rising Man. You will be delighted to know #2 in the series is due out, just next month!

Cover #2
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee is released on the 1st June and is available for pre-order now! 🙂

Synopsis:

India, 1920. Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the dramatic assassination of a Maharajah’s son.

The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a moderniser whose attitudes – and romantic relationship – may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.

As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them…