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Salil Desai

Salil Desai

Salil Desai

Please tell us a bit about Inspector Saralkar and how the character has evolved during the series (No spoilers of course!)

Inspector Saralkar probably is an amalgam of each and every sleuth I have fallen in love with and yet is a completely original character. He’s quirky, sardonic and full of paradoxes, but with a great urge to pursue truth and justice. I have tried to create an Indian cop who is very real and yet has a certain spirited, uncontaminated integrity coupled with a roguish impishness about him, which is typical of Pune, my home town. As such, Saralkar is many persons rolled into one – with the appearance of one, background of another, affectations of a third, behavioural nuances of a fourth, prejudices and mindset of a fifth and so on. He also has bits of me. In developing Saralkar’s character, I’ve tried to peel away layers of his personality, little by little, and while keeping his core character intact I’ve shown him change and evolve in response to the events and cases he experiences as a policeman and the contradictions that also surface in his personal life.

You have written books in a niche genre. How did you gravitate towards it?

I grew up devouring whodunits and in the process internalized the rules and nuances of the genre. As an author I am plot oriented and therefore this genre suits me perfectly. Moreover, I have an aptitude for exploring the bizarre quirks and kinks of human behaviour and a flair for dark humour. So crime fiction presents me with the perfect platform to put these strengths to good use.

My books are about themes and crimes that we as a society are facing today, in the midst of so much change and bewilderment. I believe crime fiction works best if you tell a good story about disturbing undercurrents in your own society, or about various psychological and pathological motivations that are universal in the way they affect human beings everywhere.

Do you feel that crime and mystery as a genre could become more popular with a lot of Indian and International content concentrating on the same?

I think crime writing in India has really started coming into its own over the last 5 – 6 years. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t flourish and evolve in the next 5 years too. Crime as a genre will never cease to enthrall readers, but I think authors need to give readers not just an intriguing mystery, but also a meaningful story about human behavior and impulses. Crime books must be about something more than just slash and gore. Indian society has been on the cusp of huge changes over the last two decades and crime is always a by-product of such transition and flux. So there is a lot of raw material around us for all kinds of crime stories. What Indian authors need to do is to write crime and mystery stories that are completely grounded in the Indian milieu. I think that’s one of the reasons why my Inspector Saralkar Mystery Series has done so well.

Have any of your characters haunted you well after you are done with the novel?

I think most characters in my murder mysteries have haunted me in some way – whether it’s the criminal or the cops or any other character who is unfortunate enough to be connected to the crime. But most importantly, it is the angst of the murderer that drives the plot of most of my books, which makes them commit horrible crimes. Even my forthcoming book has a character whose motives have kept me haunted for the last 6 years. Writing about such people, their deeds and motives, is a form of exorcism for me.

What are your favourite crime novels? Some recommendations for our readers please.

So many, but here some which are a must read:
All Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, especially ‘The Hound of Baskervilles’
‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ by Agatha Christie
‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’, James Hadley Chase
‘The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher’, Kate Summerscale
‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Thomas Harris

About the Interviewee:

Salil Desai is an author, columnist and film-maker based in Pune. He is best known for his much-acclaimed Inspector Saralkar Mystery Series which includes 3 and a Half Murders (2017), The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen(2015)and Killing Ashish Karve (2014).
Hisotherpopular books are Murder on a Side Street (2011)as well as a collection of short stories, Lost Libido and Other Gulp Fiction (2012). His sixth book, a taut, psychological drama, The Sane Psychopath will be released shortly, in September 2018.