GUEST POST: Ankush Saikia talks about his Arjun Arora series


Today I’m handing the controls of CTG HQ over to Ankush Saikia who’s here to talk about his detective Arjun Arora series, including Dead Meat (2015) and Remember Death (2016), both published by Penguin Random House India.

Welcome Ankush Saikia! So how did the Delhi detective series comes about, and what is the social relevance of the books?

I was born in Assam in 1975, and grew up there and (along with a few years in the US, where my father was teaching) in Shillong, both in North East India. When I was 21 I left for Delhi, where I stayed for a long time (more than a decade), working first in journalism and then in publishing. Delhi was a city I grew to love and detest in equal measure, a tough, almost-violent place that taught one how to survive. I returned to North East India in 2011, and, after writing a noir thriller set in Shillong (The Girl From Nongrim Hills, Penguin India 2013), I began trying to write something which had been on my mind for a while: a dark novel set in Delhi that looked at the multiple layers of existence in that city.

The detective came about as a character who, by virtue of his profession, would be able to easily access different levels of society in the capital. Delhi is a city of outsiders, but to make Arjun Arora even more of an outsider, I made him the only child from a mixed marriage (a Punjabi father, a Nepali mother) who grew up in North East India, but was forced to move with his family in his teens to Delhi after his construction-supervisor father was shot in the knee by insurgents in remote Manipur. His memories of his time in North East India remain a source of nostalgia for Arjun Arora; he is someone with one foot permanently in the past. Then there is his time as a major in the Indian army, which he was asked to leave due to insubordination. A stint as a private security contractor in Iraq sees him narrowly escaping a beheading after being kidnapped. Back in Delhi he tries his hand and fails at various businesses, and starts drinking too much. His wife and teenage daughter leave him. Then he finds something which he is good at, being a detective, even as handling cases involving greed and deceit leads him further into the darkest corners of his soul.

Both the books so far have elements of true crime in them: the infamous Delhi “tandoor” murder and cricket match-fixing in the first book, a gruesome murder case of a woman in Bangalore (she was drugged and buried alive in a box) and the strange lives of Bollywood actresses from the 1960s in the second. The third book should see Arjun Arora travel to Nagaland and Manipur in North East India in connection with a case, where he gets mixed up in smuggling and insurgent activity.

As far as the social relevance of the books are concerned, I would like to think they shine a light on the varied lives and classes in India, from the high to low, from the innocent to corrupt, and reinterpret the traditional detective character in an Indian setting. Also, the country is undergoing social change on a vast scale, which means there are more and more people—especially in the cities—who are adrift, cut loose from traditional beliefs and a sense of rootedness. Arjun Arora can be taken as a representative of this change. India is a vast country with myriad problems—and so that can only mean more interesting cases for detective Arjun Arora in the future.

A big thank you to Ankush for joining us at CTG HQ today.

To find out more about Ankush Saikia over on his website:

Follow him on Instagram & Twitter: @ankushsaikia

Publisher’s links …

Remember Death

Dead Meat

The Girl from Nongrim Hills

And check out some reviews here …

Remember Death

Dead Meat

The Girl from Nongrim Hills


The #ARisingMan Blog Tour: Abir Mukherjee talks about his lead character, Captain Sam Wyndham


I’m delighted to host a stop on Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man Blog Tour. Abir is the winner of the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition. A Rising Man is his debut novel and is out later this week on May 5th.

Here’s the blurb: “1919. Calcutta. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatize to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj. A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.”

Today, Abir Mukherjee is dropping by to tell us a bit more about Captain Sam Wyndham. Over to Abir …

Sam is an ex-Scotland Yard detective and veteran of the First World War who’s been scarred by his experiences and finds himself in Calcutta looking for a fresh start.

Life’s not exactly done him many favours. His mother died when he young and he was packed off to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, which he was forced to leave when the money ran out. From there he pretty much fell into becoming a policeman, a job which, fortuitously, he’s rather good at. He’s quickly promoted from a beat copper to CID and then to Special Branch. The coming of the war derails his career and in 1915, he enlists in the army, mainly to impress the girl he loves into marrying him.

After a year of sitting in a trench and being shot at, his superiors realise that his talents could be put to better use and he’s transferred to Military Intelligence. He’s wounded close to war’s end and is shipped home, recovering in time to find that his wife has died in an influenza epidemic.

Scarred by his experiences, and because there’s nothing left for him in England, he accepts the offer of a job with the Imperial Police Force in Calcutta.

Like anyone else, Sam’s a product of his experiences. He’s always been an outsider, but what he saw during the Great War – the carnage, the futility and the ineptitude of those in authority – has left him cynical. He likes to think he sees the world for what it is, rather than blindly swallowing other people’s preconceptions and prejudices, and in this sense, he is a man of the modern age, and a man with a conscience. But I don’t think he’s as ‘modern’ as he likes to think he is. In truth, his unwillingness to accept what he’s told is as much down to his general stubbornness and distrust of authority as it is to any sense of open-mindedness, and despite his protestations to the contrary, I think there are certain racial taboos he’s not willing to break.

He has a rather dark, gallows sense of humour, which colours much of his outlook on life, and I think this is a reaction to what he’s been through. The war and the death of his wife have destroyed his faith in a god, and he’s come to see the world as a cruel and arbitrary place where any search for meaning or justice is absurd and ultimately futile. If he has a philosophy, it would be similar to Kierkegaard, not that Sam would ever have read any of the man’s work.

Finally, I think Sam’s come to India to find something. He doesn’t know what it is, and I don’t know if he’ll ever find it, but it’ll be an interesting to see where it goes and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Big thanks to Abir Mukherjee for making the CTG blog a stop along his A RISING MAN Blog Tour, and for dropping by to tell us more about his lead character – Captain Sam Wyndham – from A RISING MAN. It’s a fabulous book, and you can catch my review of it here on Saturday. 

A RISING MAN is out this week on May 5th. You can buy it from Waterstones here or Amazon here.  

To find out more about Abir follow him on Twitter @radiomukhers

And don’t forget to check out all these fab tour stops …