Murder, mystery and urban life

Sourabh Mukherjee talks about his latest book, In the Shadows of Death, its characters and the current situation of literature in India.

Updated - September 22, 2016 10:44 pm IST

Published - January 07, 2016 03:43 pm IST

Creating the country’s next Feluda? The author hopes ACP Agni Mitra will fill the void

Creating the country’s next Feluda? The author hopes ACP Agni Mitra will fill the void

There is nothing quite like a fast-paced murder mystery to get your heart racing and the adrenaline pumping. And, when you have a relatable Indian detective with visible flaws solving the mystery it makes for an even better read. Author Sourabh Mukherjee talks about his latest book, In the Shadows of Death , its characters and the current situation of literature in India.

The book delves into the deep, dark recesses of the mind as it explores the vice-like grip that human emotions hold over our actions. With an almost Freudian understanding of how our childhood experiences influence our adult decisions, Sourabh’s novel paints a stark picture of urban life in India. He attributes his detailed observations of human behaviour and the complexity of human relationships to a keen interest in psychology, particularly that of criminals. This is reflected in the fact that his characters are not all black and white, and he is not quick to judge actions such as adultery as being sinful. Rather, he examines the several alternate reasons for their actions, which primarily have their roots in childhood experiences.

“It is a relationship-based novel in the garb of a thriller,” says Sourabh over the phone. “Our own insecurities, along with the limits that we often cross with regard to relationships, mar the good moments in life,” he observes.

The city where he grew up, Kolkata, served as a significant source of inspiration for his novel, with the action largely being set in the more up-market areas of the city. The setting also reflects his familiarity with the corporate world -- an industry that he has worked with for almost two decades.

How he finds the time to write despite his career as an IT professional, is a question he faces frequently. “People were surprised when they heard that I was publishing a novel. However, writing is a passion that allows me to unwind. Sometimes, stories have developed from the thoughts I pen down at airport lounges or on long flights since my job necessitates travel,” says Sourabh, who has been writing since childhood.

He adds that In the Shadows of Death sees the confluence of the two genres that he personally enjoys reading -- romance and thrillers. He is a fan of James Patterson’s Alex Cross. Sourabh’s protagonist, A.C.P. Agni Mitra, was also inspired by his favourite detectives, Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. “Large sections of my novel read like romance since I also enjoy the works of writers like Nicholas Sparks and Erich Segal,” says Sourabh.

About the growth of Indian-English fiction, Sourabh feels that publishers are now willing to experiment with new talent, “beckoning great times” for budding authors. “With this surge in the number of authors, the onus is on the publishers to ensure the quality of content. Publishers need to be careful about editing and correct use of language, which may sometimes be compromised as an increasing number of books are published,” he says.

“Writers like Chetan Bhagat have ensured that Indian English fiction is accessible to a larger number of people, as it gains more acceptance,” he adds.

Having published a number of e-books such as Nargis-Through My Summers , Sourabh talks about the ease of publishing online.

“There is no fear of rejection. However, with e-books there is the daunting challenge of promotion and marketing since one is not backed by a mainstream publishing house. Tons of cheap books are being produced online everyday, and the reader is spoilt for choice. Self-publishing requires one to think like an entrepreneur.”

His next book, Colours of Passion , also sees A.C.P. Agni Mitra as its protagonist. Could Agni be India’s next Feluda?

“Indian English fiction sees a void in terms of a pan-Indian detective, though we are a huge nation of English speaking people. Agni is my attempt at creating such a contemporary, relatable detective and if it is received well, a series could definitely be on the cards.”

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