There is nothing to equal the pleasure of snuggling into a soft cushion, with a warm cup of coffee and a gripping crime thriller. Most avid readers grow up on a steady diet of suspense and detective fiction. I was no different.
My earliest mysteries were the ones solved by the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, the lovable characters created by Enid Blyton. After a fleeting affair with Nancy Drew, I met Agatha Christie and she stole my heart away, keeping it firmly in her grasp through my teenage years. Later, this love for crime fiction blossomed, as I moved on to reading books by authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Sayers and Raymond Chandler.
This was when my mother decided it was time to introduce me to Ganesh and Vasanth, the ever-popular, ever-youthful literary duo envisaged by the talented and prolific Tamil writer Sujatha. From Sujatha, Rajesh Kumar was but a short walk away. Considered the King of Tamil pulp fiction, Rajesh Kumar has penned nearly 1,500 novels and most of them are centred around mind-boggling crimes. Though my mother’s efforts were purely intended to make me fluent in my mother tongue, the stories were written with a flair that gripped me and kept me hooked.
Regional language crime novels hogged the limelight at all the railway stations. Though I had heard a lot about Byomkesh Bakshi, the popular fictional detective in Bengali literature created by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay, and about Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, translations were not easily available in those days.
While regional detectives whose stories were written in vernacular languages flooded the Indian Pulp Fiction industry, an engrossing crime fiction written in English by an Indian author was conspicuous by its absence. It is only during the recent years that Indian crime writing in English has picked up pace.
The thrills and chills of reading crime fiction increase in direct proportion to the author’s efforts to remove redundant adjectives and set up a world that is mysterious and believable. The characters in a crime novel have their own flaws that make them real and charming and we end up rooting for them book after book. In a recent interview, Ashwin Sanghi rightly says, “While writing is an art, crime writing is a craft.”