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Updated: July 11, 2013 18:01 IST

The hunt begins

Nita Sathyendran
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K.S.R. Menon Photo: S.Mahinsha
The Hindu K.S.R. Menon Photo: S.Mahinsha

Veteran scribe K.S.R Menon tracks new-age terrorism in his debut novel, Desert Hunt

The hunt for suitcase nukes – portable tactical nuclear weapons – may no longer just be a favourite storyline for Hollywood thrillers. “In reality, it’s a story waiting to happen,” says veteran journalist and debutant author, K.S.R Menon, in all seriousness, as he turns the pages of his novel, Desert Hunt. Set in Dubai, the city-state that is oft regarded to be at the crossroads of global power, finance, and decadence, Desert Hunt is an engaging thriller that tells the tale of a terror plot to secure the design for a suitcase nuke. “In this backdrop, the novel unravels the sensitive geo-political situation in West Asia, where, equations in the game of terror are being constantly re-written,” says the author.

The novel is also a re-look at how terror organisations are changing tactics. “Nowadays terror outfits can’t do anything intestate, with governments, almost everywhere, cracking down heavily on terror. Maybe [maybe, being the operative word] they have changed focus to acquiring suitcase nukes and/or nuclear technology, especially considering that there’s enough evidence to show that certain countries are covertly selling nuclear technology. What’s to say terror outfits are not buying it all up?” asks Menon, reiterating that “this is a very plausible scenario and could potentially have devastating and far-reaching consequences, while changing the rules of the terror game forever.”

Nonetheless, Menon stresses that Desert Hunt is mostly a work of fiction. “Places like the Dubai Creek are real; some characters, both heroes and villains, are inspired by people I have met during my 16-year stint in Dubai,” says the author, who was the West Asian correspondent for Indian news agencies, first Press Trust of India and later United News of India.

Reporting on the political and economic developments in the region, would have given him insights into the inner politics of terror... “There’s a lot of wheeling and dealing going on behind closed doors. I’ve travelled extensively throughout the region and to countries such as Pakistan. Wherever I went, I used to jot down notes, which stood me in good stead when I was writing the novel,” he explains, adding: “Such a game, I feel, can only be played out in West Asia for the region has become the destination for the stakeholders in the game – Europeans, Asians and nowadays Americans too, with their propensity to play a double game.”

One of the highlights of the novel, as Menon is quick to point out, is that the hero is an Arab cop, Sheikh Sultan. “In popular culture, especially spy thrillers, Arabs are always pictured as villains. In reality they are unsung heroes in the game against terror,” he explains. Another is the presence of pro-active Indian secret agents – quite a departure from how they are normally portrayed to be. “Indians too have a huge stake in the region because if there is any issue related to security, they will be among the worst affected. In the novel, the Arabs, Indians, Americans, and many other stakeholders work together to prevent the worst from happening,” says the Kochi-based author, perhaps hinting that cooperation is the name of the game against terror.

Menon has written a travelogue, Magyarukalude Naatil, on his travels through Hungary in the 1980s, which was serialised in a Malayalam weekly. He’s also written a style book for journalists (“written before stylebooks became in fashion”) and several short stories for Malayalam magazines. But writing a novel always eluded him.

“Over the years I have tried several times to write a novel. It just never happened. This novel had been on the back of my mind for years now. It took me four years to write – not least because it is a thriller. If you have a solid plot in place then the genre shouldn’t matter. You’ve jut got to be patient to see your vision come through,” says Menon, who is already on his second novel. “It’s not a thriller…” he says.

Desert Hunt has been published by Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and is available online at www.amazon.in

THE PLOT

A top Hamas commander is assassinated in Dubai, to divert attention away from a terror organisation’s nuke design deal. It sets off a race against time, where Pakistani intelligence men, a mercurial Arab secret agent, and American and Indian officers, attempt to thwart the terrorists. However, the terrorists still manage to conclude the deal. Can cops stop the renegades from leaving Dubai?

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