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HT Crime Writers fest: Why India is perfect for a crime novel

The first Hindustan Times Crime Writers Festival that concluded in Delhi on January 18, 2015 saw a spectrum of writers discussed the various facets of said genre, stating from cyber crime to political thrillers.

books Updated: Jan 19, 2015 13:30 IST
Deekshita Baruah
L-to-R-Jerry-Pinto-and-Hakan-Nesser-during-the-session-The-Good-Cop-Photo-HT
L-to-R-Jerry-Pinto-and-Hakan-Nesser-during-the-session-The-Good-Cop-Photo-HT

The first Hindustan Times Crime Writers Festival that concluded in Delhi on January 18, 2015 saw a broad spectrum of writers discuss the various facets of said genre. Panelists agreed that in the age of internet, India had to be specially prepared to tackle cyber crime. And that India, with myriad problems and chaos, could very well be the hub of crime stories.

Crime isn't only about murder and blood. There's a murkier form-- cyber crime. Last year, personal pictures of celebrities that included the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Victoria Justice were ardently shared on platforms like Reddit and Imgur after a targetted iCloud hack.

Speaking at the festival, Amrita Chowdhury, author of Faking It stated that the cyber world does not exist in exclusion, but tangles its tentacles in real life too.



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(L to R) Shibani Nayak and Amrita Chowdhury during the session called The Entangled Web

Amrita said, "From being absolute neophytes, we have begun using the internet incessantly, unaware of the dangers that lurk. Unlike the National Security Agency and governments snooping illegally on citizens, there is a need for a more transparent organisation with equitable distribution of power and access to tackle crime."

Thankfully, in India, cyber crimes are still at a nascent stage.

What's really disturbing is its long and dirty history of political and financial scams. However, it's surprising that in a country where newspapers are full of news on scams, there is very little work on political thrillers.

Lord Meghnad Desai, author of books like The Route to All Evil: The Political Economy of Ezra Pound and The Rediscovery of India said, "The fact that such stories are based on real people, it gets extremely difficult to write. However, the fictionalisation of such scams poses an interesting possibility."



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(L to R) Mukul Deva, Sandeep Unnithan and Lord Meghnad Desai called Bloody Politics


Writing about political thrillers is not always easy and an author might suffer several roadblocks.

Sandeep Unnithan, author of Black Tornado: The Military Operations of 26/11 explained, "There are some individuals that simply cannot be written about. Even truth is no defence in this matter. For me, gathering information was difficult. I had to deal with the Official Secrets Act."



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(L to R) Hussain Zaidi and Sandeep Unnithan during the session called Mumbai Megalopolis



Detective fiction is an easier genre than political thrillers and it does not always touch a raw-nerve with the government or the masses. It is, to an extent, uncomplicated to conceptualise a flawed protagonist, but nothing comes easy.

Swedish writer Hakan Nesser talking to Mumbai-based Indian writer and journalist Jerry Pinto about his process said, "It is easier to kill someone in your family than to write a crime story."

Currently, India holds a lot of promise for crime fiction writers. There is a legend in Mumbai's underworld. And now, with the rise of heinous crimes and ebbing of distinctions between good and bad localities across the country, societal malevolence can find a reflection in this genre.

Zac O'Yeah, author of Once Upon A Time in Scandinavistan and Mr Majestic said, "Almost every city in India could serve as a perfect setting for a crime novel, with its chaos and crowds."

Hopefully, in the coming years, fans of this genre in India will get to see more works of fiction and with luck maybe these untold stories can make a meaningful difference to society.