Friday, February 15, 2019

A Wee Bit About Me

A Wee Bit About Me ...by Abir Mukherjee


Hi, I’m Abir, and can I start by saying what an absolute pleasure to join you all, readers and writers, on this wonderful blog. 

For those of you who don’t know me (and I’m guessing that’s most of you), I’m a writer, originally from Scotland but now stuck in London, for my sins. My parents were originally from India - my father asked himself, “where’s the coldest, wettest place that I can raise a family?”, and the answer to that turned out to be Glasgow, where I grew up. I write a series of novels set in 1920s India, during the time of the British Raj, and featuring my detective duo of Captain Sam Wyndham, an Englishman who finds himself in Calcutta basically because it’s slightly preferable to suicide, and his trusty sidekick, Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, who because his English colleagues have trouble pronouncing any foreign name longer than one syllable, is known as Surrender-not.


 While they are crime novels, I wanted my books to also examine the real history of the Raj, a topic which we in Britain tend to brush under the carpet, and much of the backdrop to the books is grounded in real history. My first novel, A Rising Man, came out in the UK in 2016 where it was a best-seller and won the CWA Dagger for Best Historical Crime Novel, and the following year in the US where it was shortlisted for the Edgar for Best Novel.It sees Sam and Surrender-not investigate the death of a burra sahib, a high-ranking British civil servant.

The second in the series, A Necessary Evil saw my duo investigate the murder of the son of a maharajah, the heir to the throne of a fabulously wealthy Indian kingdom. It was published in the Us last year and won the Wilbur Smith Award for best adventure novel. The third in the series, Smoke and Ashes, sees the brave detectives track a serial killer across Calcutta in the face of the Indian freedom struggle and a visit to the city by the Prince of Wales. It’s out in the US next month.

I suppose I should tell you a bit about how I got into this writing malarkey.

I'm an accountant by profession and my journey to debut writer began back in the autumn of 2013. To be honest, it was bit of a mid-life crisis. I was thirty-nine at the time, hurtling towards forty and I had the hope that maybe there might be more to life than accounting. 

I’d always wanted to write a book but never had the confidence. That, and a well-honed tendency to procrastinate meant I’d never actually written more than a chapter of anything, and I doubt things would have changed had it not been for two pieces of good fortune. First, I was running late one morning and caught an interview with Lee Child on breakfast TV. He recounted how, having never really written before, he’d started writing at the age of forty. I’d never read any of his work till then, but I went out that day and bought a copy of his first book, Killing Floor, and devoured it within forty-eight hours. I was amazed at how simply written and well plotted it was. I’d recently had an idea for a story centered on a British detective who travels to India after the First World War, and reading Killing Floor gave me the motivation to put pen to paper.

Nevertheless, after about ten thousand words, I made the error of reading what I’d written and began to doubt whether any of it was any good. I’d have probably given up if it weren’t for the second piece of good fortune. I’d been doing some research on-line and came across details of a Crime Writing Competition in a national UK paper, looking for new and unpublished crime writers. The entry requirements were simple: the first five thousand words of a novel, together with a two-page synopsis of the rest of the book. There was only one stipulation – that the entry contain some international element. I tidied up the first chapter, wrote the synopsis and sent them away. 

Having never submitted anything before, I didn’t expect to win, so it was a complete surprise when, a few months later, I was contacted by Alison Hennessey, senior editor at the Penguin imprint, Harvill Secker, and the organizer of the competition, and told that my book was going to be published. The problem was at that point I didn’t have a book, just half a first draft of fifty thousand words that didn’t always fit together. Thankfully Alison and the whole team at Harvill Secker took me under their wing and helped me turn those fifty thousand words into a fully-fledged novel.

That draft became my first novel, A Rising Man. I’m fascinated by the idea of a good man upholding a corrupt system and I’d always been interested in the topic of British rule in India. It’s a period in history which has contributed so much to modern India and Britain, and it was a time that saw the best and the worst of both peoples. But it’s a period that generally forgotten, and if it’s discussed at, is either painted as terribly black or romanticized. I wanted to examine that period from the perspective of two men, one British and one Indian, who are both outsiders to it all and who see things with fresh eyes.

If you want to find out more, please visit my website: www.abirmukherjee.com (though I need to update it!) or follow me on Twitter @radiomukhers .








12 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Welcome to Criminal Minds, Abir. I enjoyed this post and look forward to those in the future.

James Ziskin said...

Welcome to the team, Abir! I’m a great fan of your work!

Jim

RJ Harlick said...

Delighted to have you join our wickedly murdereous gang of Criminal Minds. Great post. Look forward to reading your future ones.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Welcome, Abir. I enjoyed your post. Looking forward to more.

Brenda Chapman said...

Great having you on the blog, Abir! Good introduction to your books.

Susan C Shea said...

Hooray! Abir, we are so pleased you're a Criminal Mund, and look forward to your posts.

Susan C Shea said...

Mind...You will soon learn that I am the worst typist of your acquaintance.

Cathy Ace said...

Welcome Abir! Looking forward to blogging together :-)

Catriona McPherson said...

Hi Abir. It's wonderful to have you on board at the Minds. I'm articualrly thrileld to have another "wee" user on the roster. Gaun yersel, son.

Kristopher said...

Happy to see you here, Abir. As you know, I am a fan of the series and look forward to your contributions to 7 Criminal Minds.

Terry said...

Happy to have you aboard, Abir. Look forward to reading your posts in the future.

Keenan Powell, Attorney at Law said...

Fascinating! I'm looking forward to reading your books.