Masala and Murder author Patrick Lyons talks about his new crime thriller, future plans and how books are a shared experience for him and his sons.
BSA: Where did the name for the book come from?
Patrick Lyons: The name of the book really stems from two different things. Obviously, it’s crime fiction so there’s murder involved in the plot. I have at least three books in mind, and all of the books bring out the Indian and the Anglo-Indian influences. I wanted to bring some of that into the story. And so the word masala appeared, but also because while this is a crime fiction at one level it’s also a love story, and it’s also a story of redemption, of the main protagonist. And there’s so many different things happening I instantly thought of the masala movies, and because this one also picks up on Bollywood, I thought it would be a nice play on that word.
BSA: There’s black magic involved in this murder mystery. Where does that fit into the entire story? Is it a binding factor?
PL: I did a lot of research not only into black magic in India but also spirituality and the darker side of spirituality in Australia with the aboriginal people and with Christian religions as well and how they all come together in different ways. The black magic was partly brought out through some of the interviews I did with some of the people I researched among them a producer and a director and an actress from the film industry. And they spoke to me about the role of superstition more generally in Bollywood and in the film industry. So that flavoured part of the narrative as well.
BSA: You’ve created in this book a private investigator. Are there going to be more outings for him?
PL: Yes, I’m actually on my way to Varanasi because book two is located in Varanasi. I find when I write about a place I need to be in that place and to absorb that place. So after leaving Delhi, we’ll be going to Varanasi and that’s where book two takes place. Book one ends with all my key narrative characters, my protagonist and his two offsiders, all in Mumbai at the same time. The book starts with people in different countries and it brings them all together and I’ve got this wonderful opportunity to take them all to Varanasi.
BSA: What kind of research went into the writing of this book?
PL: There was a lot of research into how criminal investigations take place, and I interviewed a police sergeant to help me with that. Then there was deep research into black magic and superstition, and part of that was also interviewing a Roman Catholic priest who had participated in exorcisms. And I have to tell you, some of his stories were hair-raising. But he did say one thing, which I thought was, which was really consequential, he said undergoing exorcism is the most dehumanizing thing. And I put that quote in the book because it is so strong and so yes, I did a lot of research into the darker side of spirituality.
BSA: Where all did you have to travel to for the research?
PL: For the research I spent a lot of time in Mumbai. Part of the book also takes place in Goa, so I spent some time in Goa as well. I was born in Bombay, so I’ve I come back a lot and I’ve travelled through India a lot. Part of the book takes place in the centre of Australia in Uluru, or Ayers rock as it used to be called, with the indigenous community there. I spent some time there as well. I’ve been to and seen all the locations mentioned in the book and I hope I’ve reflected those places accurately.
BSA: Where did the whole idea of writing this book come from? Was it a personal experience, or did you read something that triggered it?
PL: I was born in Bombay and when I was four years old, we moved to Australia. And I grew up in Australia in the 70s and the 80s as a young man – and it was a very difficult time to grow up in a predominantly Anglo-Saxon country, racism and all of that was part of the daily experience. But as I’ve grown older what I’ve realized is that the Indian voice is missing in Australian literature and the Anglo-Indian voice as well, and that’s my heritage. I wanted to write a story that had the Anglo-Indian voice in it and that was the driving factor. When I was a boy my mum used to take me to the library and she’d get three or four crime fiction novels every time, and she’d read them all at once and there’d be a crime fiction in the kitchen and another one in the lounge. And. Another one in the bedroom and I started to pick these books up. So, from a very young age, I loved crime fiction. And when I sat down to write the Anglo-Indian voice, it had to be crime fiction.
BSA: Is there anything else lined up after the Masala and Murder trilogy?
PL: I’ve got a few irons in the fire, including one non-fiction book, but I am focusing on the trilogy first.
BSA: What is the non-fiction book about?
PL: It is really about the experience of Anglo-Indians in Australia, but written with a humorous bent to it.
BSA: During your growing years, did you ever find that you had a bent towards writing?
PL: Absolutely. So way back when I was doing my high school, I was the first student to choose to do literature and English literature. But even before that, I was writing stories for a very long time. And now in my other job I write reports all the time, so those reports are quite factual and meant for a different audience. So I love coming back at the end of the day and writing another chapter in in my crime fiction world.
BSA: What in your opinion is the position of book shops and books nowadays that people are reading more and more on their cell phones on tabs and Kindles?
PL: I think you just have to be here to see the difference. I have both, I have a Kindle and I have the book and I and I’m a night-time reader. I read before I go to sleep and for me having that book, physically turning the pages and that unique smell of a book, I don’t know how to describe that unique smell of a book is deeply comforting. I find there is something about a legacy with a book. So my children are here today and in our home we have bookshelves full of books and I love it when I see them pick up a book that I read maybe five years ago because that is something that they will have with them and then we have a shared experience. That’s a different thing to having some digital words on a Kindle.
Pick up Patrick Lyons’ Masala and Murder from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.