Monday, January 23, 2017

The legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

Years ago, I was waiting at the Le Meridian hotel, Kochi to interview one of the guests who had come to participate in a conference. All the while, there was a man with nondescript features sitting beside me, giving occasional smiles. Other than smiling back at him, I did not attempt to ask his role in the conference. If I had asked, I would not have missed one of the best stories – the story of the ‘ Sanitary Man’ – Arunachalam Muruganantham . 

It was this feeling of ‘ sheer loss’ that made me go for Twinkle Khanna’s second book, but first work of fiction – The legend of Lakshmi Prasad as one of her stories in the book featured him.

Speaking about the book, the author’s intention was good. The ideas were perfect, but unfortunately, it failed to strike the right chord. To be precise, the tempo of emotions were fluctuating.

 For instance, the first story, after which the book was named talk at length on women empowerment and how a young girl made an entire village stand up for women’s rights. But even after the story ended on a positive note, the reader was left wanting for that single spark of revolution. Though feminism was the all pervading element in the story, sadly it could not be felt.  

With least expectation when you move on to the second one – ‘Salaam, Noni Appa’, there comes a barrage of emotions which could leave you longing for many things. This one was my favourite – a beautiful story of two Ismail sisters straight from the heart. It talks about a woman in her sixties who found love at the fag-end of her life.

When the tempo of your expectation was at its zenith, the author takes us to a dark story - the story of a Malayali woman who did not have a goal of her own. Contrary to the author’s claim  “ Here lies Eliza, she briefly belongs to many, but truly to herself, I think the woman just went with the flow of life. Though belonged to a privileged family, she did not even raise a finger to straighten out the mess, she had made of her life.There exist many people like Elisa. But I am just wondering how her lack of commitment and running away from life could be regarded as finding herself.

The story of the Sanitary man was the longest and last in the list. Sadly to say, there are many areas in the story which made the book a little dragging which was otherwise a light read. Long and short, I felt the stories were short of emotions.

Most of the time, the narration had shifted to a non- fiction mode. The systematic style – intro, content and conclusion squashed the creativity out of them. If the author had not rushed and shifted to a more creative style, all these stories could have been beautiful.

Though intermittently, her streak of humour popped its head in the story, she was trying hard to shackle them. If she had unleashed it, the stories would have left an indelible impact on the readers. ( That's just opinion)for I believe when thinks presented with humour can hit the bull's eye.

But I think I like the book primarily for Noni Appa’s story and also that I did not leave it half – way.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

“ I never can stand seeing people pleased with themselves,” said Joanna. “ It arouses all my worst instincts.”

“ Mr Dane Calthrop is a very remarkable woman, you know. She is nearly always right,” said Miss Marple. It makes her rather alarming,’ I said. ‘ Sincerity has that effect,’ said Miss Marple.

As Miss Marple rightly said in the story – “ Most crimes, you see, was absurdly simple. This one was.” Anyone could have easily guessed who the murderer was. But Agatha Christie had crafted it in such a way that the reader’s attention hardly fell on the murderer.

Though this is a Miss Marple story, she enters the scene only in the last few pages. It could have dampened the interest of the reader if he/she is a Miss Marple fan. But the protagonist, Mr Jerry Burton had done an outstanding job all through. The story starts with his narration. He comes to a placid village called Lymstock to recuperate as he got hurt in a flying accident. Jerry along with her sister Joanna moves to this village and starts living in an Emily Barton’s house.

After a few days, Jerry receives an anonymous letter accusing him of an incestuous relationship between him and her sister, Joanna. Though both ignored it as a silly mail, the other residents of Lymstock receive similar vicious letters. But it causes only a minor stir until one of the recipients commits suicide for she receives one such mail. The real twist comes when a young girl is murdered.

More than the suspense, I enjoyed the countryside portrayed in the book, the characters especially Joanna and Meghan. Both are original and never fails to call, a spade a spade. Apart from the mounting suspense, Agatha also weaves a beautiful love story.

Agatha has a knack of throwing in a surprise element during the climax of her stories. For instance ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. I am sure, many of her readers could not have guessed the climax in the wildest of their dreams. But ‘ The Moving Finger’ do not fall into the above-mentioned category. But it is a good book in its own way.

Agatha Christie considers this book as one of her bests.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Interviewing Mayur Patel, the author of Scarlet Nights

Barring, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay whose detective character Byomkesh Bakshi outshone its creator, no other writer who delved into the genre of crime and thrillers or their characters could leave an indelible impression in the psyche of Indian readers. We love whodunnits and thrillers by Western authors but the readership for such genres written by the Indian authors is yet to take an upward trend.

But it seems things are changing for the better with the arrival of books like Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Witness the night by Kishwar Desai, Lalli series by Kalpana Swaminathan.

Going by the rave reviews garnered, it seems ‘Scarlet Nights’ by Mayur Patel is on its way to get itself included in the above mentioned list.

Scarlet Nights is a psychological thriller.   Let’s ask Mayur what makes it a thriller ?

There has been thousands and thousands of thrillers all over the world in more than hundred languages. More than 90 percent of them are a blend of villains, crimes, money, power, lust and love etc. Very few times have we come across a novel which deals with inner demons. Something that is unseen, something that is hard to perceive, and something that is... well, even one more word will give out the suspense of ‘Scarlet Nights’. The uniqueness of this novel is what I am hiding.

I have tried to maintain secrecy about the story. When I go through the review of my book, my eyes are always conscious about the spoilers. I requested many reviewers to remove the spoilers from their reviews, and they have so sportingly accepted the request. Thanks to all who did that. ‘Scarlet Nights’ is a psychological thriller about a fight against your inner demons.
What and How, the reader better find out himself.”   

Your debut novel “ Vivek and I” was a love story. But in your second novel, you took a detour. Why so?

I have always been in love with this genre ‘Thriller’. I love secrets and mystery and that kind of stuff. It gives me immense pleasure to unsolve a mystery. Though an out-an-out love story, ‘Vivek and I’ too had the elements of mystery. The book had characters that were hiding things, and that is what makes it an intriguing read. It’s not a boy-meets-a-girl-and-they-fall-in-love kind of typical love story. Such stuff bore me. I wrote ‘Vivek and I’ because I believed in that story. With ‘Scarlet Nights’ I have not ‘shifted’, I would say, I have returned to my original genre which is thriller.

One of the reviewers said the Sydney Sheldon’s fans would definitely like Scarlet Nights. Do you have any favourite authors when it comes to thrillers?

I very much agree with this statement that Sydney Sheldon fan would definitely like ‘Scarlet Nights’. Talking about my favourite authors, I love Mr Sheldon’s work. I like the mysteries by the great Agatha Christie. In Gujarati, my favourite novelists are, no surprises because they are everyone’s favourite, Harkisan Mehta and Ashwini Bhatt.  
Though the characters and backdrop of Scarlet Nights are Indian, do you think your book can cater to the Western audience?

The theme of ‘Scarlet Nights’ has got a universal appeal. What happens with the characters of the novel can happen with anybody in the world, and for this reason I do think that western audience will for sure relate to this book.

Tell us about your debut novel “Vivek and I”. It deals with homosexuality, right? Since the situation prevailing in the country is not favourable to the homosexuals?

I wouldn’t say ‘Vivek and I’ was a story about same-sex relationships. Rather, it’s a story about a young man who happens to be homosexual. It’s about his life, his struggle in his career, his conflicts with his family and his fight against odd situations. His being Gay is only one aspect of his personality. Other than that, he is a loving, caring person and has great relationships with his mother, neighbours and colleagues.     
I didn’t write ‘Vivek and I’ to preach homophobes or to bring some change in the orthodox Indian society. It’s just that I believed that this story should be told. The situation for the LGBT people is not easy in the country, but I have a hope that things will change.
The scenario must change because everybody has a right to live with the sexual orientation of his/her choice. It’ll be an honour if ‘Vivek and I’ will be of any help regarding this.  

Tell us about your struggle to get your first break? I mean how you approached the publishers and what was their response?

Getting ‘Vivek and I’ published was an ordeal. More than 8 publishers had turned it down. Then Penguin Books India found it interesting and said YES. I will always be thankful to the Penguin Editor Vaishali Mathur for showing interest in V&I. Back in 2010, most publishers were not positive about publishing an LGBT-centric novel. The scenario has changed now. There have been many such books since V&I.

What was that feeling when your first book was published?

I was so so so SO happy that my book was being published by none other than Penguin books India. It was an emotional journey. I learned how the editing, cover designing and many other things related to book publishing goes, and it was fun. It’s informative and educational. I won’t hesitate to admit that I DID cry the day I held the physical copy of my book. It’s like bearing a child. It’s like the happy moment that one goes through while holding his/her child for the first time.

After writing a thriller and a love story, which genre you would like to pursue in future?
There are many genres that fascinate me as a reader and writer. In English, I am writing an Epic Fantasy Saga which is a mixture of Fantasy, Indian Mythology and Science Fiction. Loaded with action, it’ll have interesting subplots and a lot of characters. I have plans to write an Erotica and an out-an-out Sci-fi thriller someday.

Now let’s move on to my favourite sections of questions. There is a huge chance that these may appear frivolous. But I can’t resist myself from asking it.

Do you have a library in your home? If yes, how many books are there? Have you ever thought of opening up your library for the readers?

I do have a library and a beautiful one I must say. I haven’t counted ever but the number of books should be somewhere around 200. Lately I have been getting latest releases as gifts, which is great! (Who doesn’t like gifts!?) I like to buy books online and in book stores, too. Coming to the point about sharing my library with others, I wouldn’t be much positive. I am very possessive about my books and wouldn’t want anyone even touch them without my permission. If one wants to read it, he/she can go through it while sitting in my room. I won’t permit them out of my room with my books. They are like a treasure for me hence I am very protective about them.

Your 10 favourite books and movies

As stated earlier, I like most of Sydney Sheldon’s work. Of them, my most favourites are ‘the best laid plans’ and ‘the sky is falling’. I would love to translate ‘the best laid plans’ into Gujarati, my mother tongue someday. I love Agatha Christie’s ‘and then there were none’. Such an incredible mystery it is! Arundhati Roy’s booker prize winner ‘god of small things’ is a masterpiece.  And then, there is
‘Scarlet nights’ which I love so very much. In movies, my favourites are ‘The Others’, ‘Chicago’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, ‘Inception’ ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Guide’ and ‘Mother India’.

  About Mayur
Mayur lives in Valsad, a small town in Gujarat. Currently, he is associating with a media firm in Surat, Gujarat. His debut novel ‘ Vivek and I’ was published by Penguin Books, India. He writes novels and columns in Gujarati, his mother tongue. His first Gujarati novel ‘TarpanYatra’ will be published on January 17. Mayur says he is free-spirited, liberal person who believes in doing
everything with the utmost passion.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Turn a new page and READ everyday. Wish you all my blogger buddies a HAPPY 2017

May your coming year be filled with MAGIC and 

I hope you READ some Fine BOOKS and KISS 
someone who thinks you're WONDERFUL, and
don't forget to make some ART.
- Unkown

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Cinderella Murder - Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

Mary Higgins Clark

Alafair Burke

So this is the final book of the year and I read only four. Very unlikely of me. Last year, it was 30 books.

But I hope, next year would be different and I am happy that I chose Mary Higgins Clark to end this year with.

We will now move to the story review.

Susan Dempsey was a young girl who wanted to make it big as an actor. Definitely, she had the looks and the talents to make it to the league and finally, the D-day had arrived. She was thrilled to get an audition for a role in a film which was to be directed by Frank Parker. Susan was excited to the core and called her mother to inform that due to the audition she would not be able to attend her father’s birthday party.

But much to her parents’ shock, the next morning, young Susan was found murdered in a park, not too far away from the Director, Frank Parker’s house. Though Parker came under the scanner of the police, there was no substantial evidence to prove his guilt. Because he had a solid alibi.

Twenty years had passed by. Susan’s murderer is still at large. Her father passed away even without knowing who killed his young and only daughter.

But “ the Cinderella story” as named by the press got a revival when Laurie Mauran, the TV producer decided to feature Susan Dempsey’s murder case in her show “ Under Suspicion”. Prior to it, she could solve a similar murder case through her show. Susan’s mother was long waiting for this and pinned every hopes on Laurie. She saw it as the final opportunity to know who killed her daughter.

When I started off, I could not feel like I was reading a MHC book. Maybe, I was too judgmental as it was co- written by Alafair Burke. The MHC books had their own way of putting the readers on tenterhooks right from the first page, just like Agatha Christie books. But that was found missing in the Cinderella Murder case.

I don’t know whether I was being judgmental as there was someone else who contributed to the book. My love for her work was so huge that I could not think of reading a book which she had co-written with her daughter. I know I am being flimsy.

I found a wide disconnect all through the story. There were ingredients that could make it a super thriller. For instance, even after completing a major portion of the book, they did not leave a single clue which could direct us to the murderer though all through the story they introduced many deviant characters capable enough to commit a murder. When the murderer was caught, eventually not in the remotest corner of my heart did I think that person could be the murderer. ( Do I have to warn spoiler alert here ! ). A ideal situation that can make a work a best thriller but unable to sent shivers down my spine.

Is it because, it was a simple plot. Besides, I am not convinced of the reason given to commit the murder.

Something about me.
I have been reading murder mysteries for many years and I always used to boast that I could identify the culprit even before it was revealed by the author. Much to my annoyance, I realised it recently that I was just going for a person or persons who seemed unlikely to commit that murder as there lies the suspense of the story. That was my simple logic.  Though I could identify the person, I never made any attempt to offer logical reasoning on why I suspected that person.

This time, I have deliberately refrained myself from focusing on anyone.
Instead, I decided to wait until I come across somebody who had the motive to do so and I could not fix my scanner on anyone.

As I always mentioned in my blog, Mary Higgins Clark’s books always helped me to break my reader’s block. But this time, I was pretty slow while reading the book. But I do not know whether it has got anything to do with the book, my reader’s block apart from the reason mentioned above - Being Judgmental.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

An imaginary interview with Agatha Christie by Rosalba Mancuso

 pic courtesy :

I stumbled upon this website while searching for the list of Agatha Christie books.
An imaginary interview - the idea sounded interesting. Asking all those questions to the author whom you admire the most.

All these answers would not have been new for a reader who follows “ The Queen of Crime” meticulously but would be a revelation to those who have just known her by her fame.

Though I liked the questions and answers  I firmly believe think  ‘ Dame’ Agatha Christie would have maintained more prudence in the language. But it is pardonable as Rosalba started reading English books only in 2010. The website says she is an Italian freelance journalist who after having worked with Italian newspapers, magazines started this blog to promote literature in two languages - English and Italian.

You can read the full interview here

 It might be interesting to go through this site as she has also interviewed William Shakespeare and Jesus Christ.


She is regarded as the Queen of crime and mystery. She is also the most famous writer in the world after God (who wrote the Bible) and William Shakespeare I interviewed a month ago. I am discussing about Agatha Christie, the second female novelist I met through an imaginary interview. During last months, indeed, I have mostly interviewed male famous novelists and I believe that a major room must be left to famous writer women, also. For this likewise important reason, ladies and gentlemen, I interviewed for you, by disturbing her in the heaven, Mrs. Agatha Christie, the writer who invented  mystery and unforgettable detective  Hercule Poirot.

Rosalba: Mrs. Christie, I am very happy for this interview. I know you dislike publicity and gave few interviews in your life and for this, thank you so much for accepting to being interviewed by me.

Agatha Christie: I dislike publicity, it is true, but I like to meet foreign writers and reviewers like you, my dear Rosalba.

Rosalba: I read your biography and I know you used the last name of your husband in your novels, namely Christie. Which was your true name?

Agatha Christie: My former husband, you should say. But I’ll talk about this later. My true name was Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller. I was born on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, South West England.

Rosalba: Hence, you are a perfect British writer and a native speaker! Now, I hope you’ll correct my mistakes in English.

Agatha Christie: It will always be a pleasure for me. To tell the truth, I feel to be a French speaker, too.

Rosalba: And why do you feel this?

Agatha Christie: When I was five years, my family spent some times in France, where they rented a house with a French governess, Marie. I learned my erratic French, thanks to her.

Rosalba: Is true that your parents would prevent you to learn reading and writing until you were eight years old?

Agatha Christie: yes, it is damned true. But I got my revenge in my life: first because I learnt at five years, thanks to my siblings who helped me to read secretly from our parents and second because I became a novelist!

Rosalba: Why did you choose to write by using the surname of your husband?

Agatha Christie: Although I was born in a wealthy middle class family, during the previous years the first world war, my mother relocated in Egypt with me and my siblings. They left in 1910 after my father’s death for a chain of deadly heart attacks. There , in 1912, I met my first husband Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. The first world war, however, separated us, him in France and me in my hometown (Torquay) to work as a voluntary nurse at a war hospital. They were the years that helped me write my first crime stories. In 1916, I wrote, indeed, my debut novel The Mysterious Affair At Styles . The main character was detective Hercule Poirot. I used the surname of my first husband because I was married to him when I wrote my debut novel that would make me very famous later. I can only say I left this surname as a talisman and then because easier to use for my publishers.

Rosalba: I know you debuted very soon and before writing your first mystery with Hercule Poirot.

Agatha Christie: yes, I started writing my stories at 18 years old. Furthermore, you must know my mother was a good storyteller and a passionate writer and, obviously, I became a passionate writer, as well. Mine were short stories that were published revised only in the 1930s.

Rosalba: How long did you take to find a publisher for your first novel?

Agatha Christie: Much time. I took much time to write and later to find a publisher. My debut novel was published at the end of the war when my husband reached me in England and I sent my manuscript to four publishers. The fourth, John Lane of The Bodley Head accepted my manuscript and insisting to make some changes, hired me for other five books. He also proposed me to set the conclusion of my mystery in a library. Then, other famous novels followed such as The Secret Adversary and The Man in the Brown Suit. Since my publisher offered me unfair terms to release the books, I decided to find a literary agent who found a new publisher: William Collins and Sons, namely HarperCollins.

Rosalba: You also wrote very exotic mystery novels, the most famous are also set in the Middle East, such as the unforgettable Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile
, Murder in Mesopotamia and Appointment with Death. Where have you found the inspiration for these novels?

Agatha Christie: In my life, my greatest ambition was to travel on the Orient Express. I had the opportunity to travel on this charming train in 1928. Thanks to this journey, I went to visit the archaeological area in Baghdad and I met archaeologist Max Mallowan who became my second husband. On the train, we loved talking very much and just for these wonderful trips on this marvellous vehicle I got the inspiration to write my novels.

Rosalba: Where you got the inspiration to create the character of Hercule Poirot?

Agatha Christie: First of all, from my childhood in France and then from my experience as a nurse at the war hospital during the first world war. During the war, there were Belgian refugees in most parts of the English countryside, Torquay is no exception. Although Poirot was not based on any particular person, I thought that this Belgian refugee, a former great Belgian policeman, could become a perfect detective for my stories. Moreover, as a nurse, I learnt to use many poisons and this is another reason that inspired me to write crime novels.

Rosalba: What advice would you like to give to modern and aspiring writers?

Agatha Christie: I believe tips and suggestions are evergreen and without time. I can suggest the one I was told by author and family friend Eden Philpotts when I started writing: “The artist is only the glass through which we see nature, and the clearer and more absolutely pure that glass, so much the more perfect picture we can see through it. Never intrude yourself.”

Rosalba: How did you write your novels?

Agatha Christie: I always wrote stories about things I knew, namely my life, my experience, the places and the people I met. Sometimes, to sketch a story in my block notes it was sufficient a talk, a discussion or opinions I heard at a dinner party, for instance. My grandson always described me as a person who listened more than she talked, who saw more than she was seen.”   Another my fictional characher, for instance,  Miss Marple ,  was based on the description of my elderly aunt.  Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop…Suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head”. I wrote always by hand and then I dictated my written words to a secretary who typed with a machine called Dictaphone.

Rosalba: Yes, you were a great novelist and rewarded with a great career. What do you feel to say at this moment?

Agatha Christie: What can I say now? Thank God for my good life, and for all the love that has been given to me. I wish the same to my colleagues.

Fore more information about Agatha Christie, see this website: I used to get the image and information about the writer.

Please also see my translation sample into Italian of Evil Under the Sun, another famous  Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie