Friday, June 25, 2021

A Drug Deal in Bradford and an Ass-whooping in Delhi...

This week, I'm pleased to introduce you to my good friend and fellow author, A.A. Dhand. His new novel, Blood Divide, is an action packed thriller set in England and India, and is out this week.


What lengths do you (or would you) go to in order to get the geography right in your books? Is it okay to take liberties?

I’m five-thousand miles from home, deep underground in the largest underground market in Asia – Sadar Bazaar located in Delhi, India. 


It’s sensory overload – thousands of vendors and shoppers all attempting to get the best deal they can. I can’t quite believe how hot it is. Above me, at ground level, it’s thirty-five degrees Celsius. The Bazaar is so much hotter – it feels like my skin is melting. 


This place is far removed from the popular touristy hotspots. To say the environment in inhospitable is an understatement.

 I’m here because, it’s a key setting  for several chapters of my latest standalone thriller, “The Blood Divide” and whilst I could have remotely done my research via the internet, for me, authenticity comes from a writer fully immersing themselves in the locations they write about. 

This is not an area where liberties can be taken and I learned this the hard way! 


Let’s step back in time a moment.

It’s 2017. I’m revelling in the fact that my debut novel, set in my hometown of Bradford has been released. Fans and reviews alike are complimentary and I’m feeling pretty damn good. 

Then, I come across a message from someone who enjoyed my book but gave it a poor review because amongst those 85k words, there were two which, to this reviewers’ mind ruined the whole experience of reading it:

I got the name of a street wrong. 

Now, this may seem harsh and at the time, I thought it was but I came to understand why it was so irksome -  the reader is lost in my fictional world – it’s a high-octane chapter; car chases and escape from annihilation. Then, at the mention of this (incorrect) street name, the reader who knows Bradford well, is jarred from the fictional world I’ve created back to reality. It ruined their experience.

Lesson learned. 

Get. This. Stuff. Right. 


So, back to India. 

I landed here a day ago.

Just like my protagonist in The Blood Divide, Jack Baxi, I’ve hired a local taxi and aim to do the exact route Jack does. It’s going to be a chaotic, sleep-deprived 72-hours and we are going to tour various murky places in Delhi before heading to the most militarised zone in India – the Wagah Border which separates India with Pakistan. As per the book, I will live the life of my protagonist (minus the attempts on his life!) for these three days – eat where he eats, sleep when he sleeps and see this magnificent country through his eyes in the hope that I can take readers into a world they have seldom, if ever, encountered. 


My three days go well. I’m tired, a little dirty and my brain is overloaded with plot angles and misdirect devices. I’m pretty happy.

But, whilst the overarching geography is right, I need to visit one of the most dangerous parts of Delhi. Whilst my south-Asian identity (and by this, I mean my brown skin) means I don’t stand out as a tourist, I’m aware that as soon as I open my mouth, I’ll be revealed as a foreigner. Whilst my Hindi / Punjabi is okay, my accent is a dead give-away that I’m not a native and that might prove very costly in this part of the city.

But… I’ve come this far to get the location absolutely spot on. All I need to do is enter the lions’ den (you’ll have to read the book to discover where – clue it’s chapter 54 in the book and I’m on  G.B. road in Delhi…)

So, I enter. 

It doesn’t go well. 

I’ll surmise but the visit ended with me having to bribe my way out of a serious ass-whooping and I duly left, heart-in-my-mouth, promising never to take such a risk again. It would be a promise I would come to break because as a writer, I have come to realise that making my books as realistic as possible is what I enjoy the most. Yes, I will fuse fact with fiction but in my humble opinion there’s nothing more satisfying than taking readers into murky-locations they might recognise and then heightening their sense of fear of those places. It makes the read more personal, more effective and frankly more compelling. 


So, from the edgy streets which Bradford drug-dealers like to frequent to the criminal underworld of Delhi, location is king, authenticity is paramount and there are no room for liberties! Even if does mean you nearly get your ass whooped…

The Blood Divide, Bantam Press is out now!


Follow AA Dhand on Twitter: @aadhand



Susan C Shea said...

You're making me awfully glad I set my crime fiction stories in places like San Francisco and rural France! Thanks for visiting CriminalMinds today.

Brenda Chapman said...

A great post! Congratulations on your latest release ... sounds like a fascinating read and a visit to a country where I've never been.

Ann Bloxwich said...

A brilliant post! I remember you talking about your experiences when I first met you, it sounded harrowing! I'm so glad you didn't get your ass whooped, and that you can finally share this wonderful book with us all.

Frank Zafiro said...

Abir, I want - no I need to hear the rest of this story at Bouchercon. Hearing the harrowing tale, Scottish accent to boot, will no doubt become legendary in future annals of the conference.

You may even be able wrangle a second whisky out of it...