Many years ago, when I was a teenager, a cousin who was much older than me lent me a favourite book of hers: Edward Rutherfurd’s Sarum. Sarum was the ancient name of the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, England, a place of great antiquity; and Rutherfurd’s Sarum is a novel about interconnected families, their stories playing out against a backdrop of history being created. Beginning with the Ice Age, these characters live their lives as Stonehenge is built, as the Romans invade and then establish a colony in England; as Salisbury Cathedral is erected, as the Black Death grips England… going right up to 1984, this was an epic book that made a huge impression on me. I couldn’t help wondering: given India’s long and fascinating history, wouldn’t it be satisfying to read a book similar to Sarum, but set in India?
Back then, I had no plans to someday become a writer. But finally, a few years back, when I’d written the Muzaffar Jang series and had learnt a good deal about the history of Delhi, Sarum came to mind again, and with it, that long-ago wish that someone would write an Indian equivalent.
Here it is: The Garden of Heaven, the first book in the Delhi Quartet. The Delhi Quartet will span 800 years of Delhi’s history, beginning shortly before the invasion of Mohammad Ghuri, and extending till just after Partition; the first 200 years of that stretch are covered in The Garden of Heaven.
I won’t go so far as to say that Helen was the first Hindi film actress I remember seeing (that would be Shakila, since CID was the first Hindi film I remember watching). But I distinctly remember being about 10 years old, watching Chitrahaar, and being very excited because an old favourite of mine, a song I had till then only heard and never seen, was going to come on (in Chitrahaar, there would always be a sort of intertitle between songs, a single frame in which the name of the next song, the film it was from, and the names of the music director, the lyricist, and the singer(s) would be listed).
This song was Mera naam Chin Chin Choo, and my feet were already tapping when it began. All that frenetic movement, those men in sailor suits dancing about. The energy, so electric that it even seemed to transmit itself to the musicians. The infectiousness of it all.
If you’ve explored this blog beyond the rather more obvious cinema-related content, you’d probably know that I am also a writer of short stories and novels. Most people who’ve read my books so far know me as the creator of … Continue reading →
(Plug alert: my latest novel, what it’s about, and some background)
Some of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while—or who know something of what I write about besides classic cinema—probably know by now that I am also the creator of a fictional 17th century Mughal detective named Muzaffar Jang. Muzaffar first appeared in a short story in a collection of South Asian women’s writing, called 21 Under 40. I had, however, already half-written a novel featuring this protagonist, and that book, set in the summer of 1656, went on to become the first full-length Muzaffar Jang novel, The Englishman’s Cameo, published by Hachette India in 2008.
Seven years later, and here I am, at the fourth book of the series.
Crimson City, the fourth book in the Muzaffar Jang series.
Engraved in Stone (Hachette India; 2012. ISBN: 9789350094488), the third book in the Muzaffar Jang series, is set in the winter of 1656-57 CE. This novel finds Muzaffar in Agra. The Mughal armies, led by the ambitious Diwan-e-kul, Mir Jumla, … Continue reading →
My Lawfully Wedded Husband & Other Stories (Westland-Tranquebar, 2013) is a collection of black humour short stories: stories that have a hint (or more) of the macabre in them. A young girl, visiting her grandmother in Goa, witnesses the dramatic end of a romance. A passenger on a night train is told about a long-ago tragedy. A bored housewife cheats on her lawfully wedded husband. Some of these stories are more dark than the others; some are more humorous than not. My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories is available in major bookstores in India, and can be ordered online at Flipkart, Infibeam, Landmark, etc.
The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries(Hachette India; 2011. ISBN: 9789350092750) is the second book in the Muzaffar Jang series, and takes up where The Englishman’s Cameo left off. The problem of the cameo solved, Muzaffar has acquired somewhat of a reputation as an investigator. This is a collection of ten short mysteries, ranging from an odd bequest, to the theft of some wedding gifts, to the seemingly inexplicable disappearance of a woman travelling in a small caravan…
This is what reviewers had to say:
“…The series of mysteries in this collection are something else – from the elephant that killed his mahout to the murder of an artist, these ten stories will have you wanting more. I am always biased to good mystery stories and when they came with an appropriate historical background, it makes it even better…” – Vivek Tejuja, IBN Live. Read more.
“…In some way, these stories are a welcome break from the abundance of mystery writing that makes it impossible to distinguish one from the other. Where others would be lost for being too commonplace, Liddle has been ingenious in creating a detective who is set in a time which places him far ahead in any competition.” – Chitra Rao, The Asian Age. Read more.
The Englishman’s Cameo (Hachette India; 2009. ISBN: 9788190617338), published in French as Le Camée Anglais, is the first Muzaffar Jang book, a story about crime and corruption in Shahjahan’s Dilli. Set in 1656 CE, the novel begins with the young … Continue reading →
For those of you out there who can read and understand French, a book I’d recommend: Le Camée Anglais. Or, in English, The Englishman’s Cameo. The French edition of the novel, published by Éditions Philippe Picquier, will be released on April 8, 2010. It’s been translated by Melanie Basnel, and has a handy glossary at the end too. This is what the blurb on the back cover reads: 1656, en Inde sous le règne Shah Jahan. Un ouvrier bijoutier est injustement accuse du meurtre de Murad Begh, notable de la ville. Heureusement pour lui, il compte parmi ses amis le jeune Muzaffar, un noble un peu excentrique qui a pour fâcheuse habitude de n’en faire qu’à sa tête. Pour sauver son ami, Muzaffar se lance à corps perdu dans la quête du veritable muertrier. A force de prendre au sérieux sa nouvelle vocation de detective, il se retrouve malgré lui au cœur d’une aventure qui l’emmènera bien loin de son quotidian sans surprises et lui fera découvrier ce qui se trame derrière les murs du fort de Dilli, dans les salons des courtisanes et sous les dorures du palais imperial. Corruption, trahison, meurtres et manigances sont monnaie courante dans l’empire mohol. Et Muzaffar va l’apprendre à ses dépens. The book’s available in bookstores across France. You can also buy it online at: Amazon CanadaMollatFrnacAlapage Happy reading!