I try to write something that impresses me as a reader, says author Salil Desai

Salil’s new book The Kid Killer is about Inspector Saralkar’s investigation to nab a scheming murderer

Updated - March 28, 2023 05:12 pm IST

Published - March 28, 2023 02:45 pm IST

Author Salil Desai

Author Salil Desai | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Author Salil Desai’s Inspector Saralkar is an interesting addition to the growing ranks of Indian detectives in fiction such as Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi, Kalpana Swaminathan’s Lalli and Anitha Nair’s Inspector Gowda. Saralkar is a maverick in the police department, a cop who does not always toe the official line to nab a culprit. Salil’s new book The Kid Killer is a thriller that follows the police investigation led by Saralkar to nab a scheming murderer.

Salil says that his new book is not based on any real-life incident. “What I do pick up from real life is the inspiration for characters, motives, plot complications, red herrings and, of course, criminal psychology,” says the author in an email interview.

The story unfolds when a body is found in the river Mutha in the heart of Pune. As Inspector Saralkar tries to discover the motive of the murder, the case becomes murkier. It also unfolds a new face of burgeoning Pune with a huge floating population.

Author Salil Desai with his new book featuring Inspector Saralakar.

Author Salil Desai with his new book featuring Inspector Saralakar. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

According to Salil, like most good fictional cops, Inspector Saralkar draws his USP from his setting — Pune. Describing the down-to-earth Saralkar, Salil says, “He uses a balance of logic and intuition in investigating crime. He’s got an old-world integrity and doggedness coupled with a sharp, acerbic sense of humour as a coping mechanism. And he has evolved quite a bit over the course of my five books. What is important is he’s neither foul-mouthed, corrupt nor angst-ridden like the hackneyed portrayal of many police officers in contemporary fiction.”

Mapping the plot

Salil maintains that it is a lot of hard work to write a good crime thriller today, because readers are exposed to all kinds of books and films in the genre. “It’s far more difficult to keep them guessing because readers are familiar with tropes and devices used in crime fiction. Moreover, readers are prone to getting bored or disappointed quite easily, if an author falters in crafting a good mystery or delivers an ending which is cliched or not enthralling enough.”

The most important aspect of plotting is tapping into a unique motive - the ‘why’, feels Salil. He explains that he is always in search of psychologically intriguing ‘whys’, which lead to crimes. “And once I have the why, the contours of the story begin taking shape in my mind, followed by outlining the best possible sequence in which the plot should unfold for maximum impact. Then the characters start evolving and finally the narrative structure.”

Writing process

The Kid Killer has a layered plot that moves between the past and the present of the main protagonists in the book. To keep track of the plot as the story progresses, Salil says he usually writes a synopsis of the story before beginning work on the manuscript. Every day, the previous chapters are edited and rewritten, if necessary, before going ahead with the next part of the story.

“After every three or four chapters, I type it into my laptop, which gives me another opportunity to assess how the narrative is shaping up and polish it. Finally, when I finish writing, I take a long break of about a fortnight, then return and start reading and editing from Chapter one onward and continue till I am done with it,” he elaborates.

While explaining why he chose crime fiction over other genres, Salil says that the book he writes is a vehicle to talk about conflicts and subliminal factors that influence the psyche of modern society. “Crime fiction is popular and provides endless scope for innovation in the plot, theme, characters, denouement and it gives me the right canvas to frame different existentialist questions too in my own way. It’s the genre in which I have tasted success and popularity. As an author, I am forever trying to write something that impresses me as a reader myself.”

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