Indians in British crime thrillers
Top British crime writers like Ruth Rendell and Ian Rankin are now featuring Indians as characters in their books.Updated: Apr 14, 2008 18:31 IST
Indians are not only the largest minority living in Britain but also the most prosperous. The community has become so deeply enmeshed in British life over the past decades that it is making an appearance in works of fiction, such as that staple of popular reading - crime thrillers.
In the past year, at least three of the top authors of crime fiction in Britain have featured Indians as minor characters or as passing references in their books, from Ruth Rendell to Ian Rankin.
Books by Ruth Rendell and noted author Quintin Jardin have an Indian as a junior detective on their crime squad.
Quintin Jardin's latest offering, Dead and Buried features his popular detective Deputy Chief Constable Bob Skinner who is in the running for chief constable's job. It is the eighth in the Bob Skinner series.
The setting for the crime thriller is Edinburgh, and Skinner's core team of detectives includes Detective Tarvin Singh, appearing for the second time in Jardine's novels. Big Singh is a tall fellow with a hearty appetite to match his large size and is well liked by his mates.
Well-known thriller writer Ian Rankin is described as Britain's No. 1 crime writer. His latest novel, Exit Music has his famous detective, Detective Inspector John Rebus, at work solving crimes in the final week before his retirement.
Ian Rankin's books are usually placed within contemporary events and happenings. His last book called The Naming of the Dead was set against the backdrop of the G-8 summit that was held in Gleneagles in 2005.
In Exit Music, Edinburgh's Evening News carries a front-page story that says: "A Sikh teenager had been attacked in Pilrig Park and his hair lopped off." The next day's report in the newspaper said: "The Sikh teenager had escaped with bumps and bruises, but his hair was sacred to his religion, something his attackers must have known or guessed." The incident is among the list of crimes and assaults that took place on the same day of a murder.
Bestselling author of Chocolat Joanne Harris, mentions an Indian on the streets of Paris. In her latest novel, "The Lollipop Shoes", her protagonist, the flamboyant Zozie de l'Alba, uses bits from Indian silk saris to transform her dreary old room into a boudoir. She draws on exotic silks to jazz up the display window when the old chocolate shop is transformed into a chocolaterie called Le Rocher de Montmarte.
Popular crime thriller writer Peter James has his angst ridden cop, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace worry about an impending trial of villain Suresh Hussein in his latest novel - Looking Good Dead - even as he tries to solve a particularly gory case of 'snuff movies' showing the actual process of a victim being killed.
A character in Jeffery Archer's book False Impressions is reported to be seen wearing an Anand Jon creation.
Rendell's latest crime thriller in the Chief Inspector Wexford series titled Not in the Flesh reflects Britain's multi-cultural society, with a community of Somalis living nearby.
In the book, Rendell has Wexford's sergeant, D.S. Hannah Goldsmith, decide to marry her live-in companion, Bal Bhattacharya. Wexford was said to be sorry when Bhattacharya, a valuable police officer "in spite of lapse into puritanical behaviour and wild heroism", left the local police force to join the Met (Metropolitan police).
Indians in Britain are now being shown as more comfortably ensconced in British life. The shop on the corner of Pestle Lane and Queen Street in Kingsmarkham described by Rendell "still had the name Robinson's Chemists engraved on its window, but its proprietor was now a tall thin Asian man called (Palab) Sharma and his shop a model emporium of cleanliness, order and efficiency".
Palab Sharma's wife, Parvati Sharma, wore neither sari nor salwar kameez and veil but was smartly dressed in a white shirt, short skirt and high heels.
The favourite eating place of Rendell's detective team is the Indian restaurant called A Passage to India which was next door but one to the police station and there they go for some lamb biryani and chicken korma.
(Shubha Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)