Daggers in Indian writing

The plot thickened on Day 4 of the Jaipur Literature Fest with the launch of The Crime Writers’ Association of South Asia helmed by convener and founder-member Kishwar Desai who calls herself an ‘accidental crime writer’. Kanika Sharma speaks to her just before the launch. Excerpts

How did the idea of the association emerge?
The Crime Writers’ Association of South Asia was an idea that came from Namita Gokhale who runs the Jaipur Literature Festival. She noticed that there was a definite growth in this genre not only in India but also all around. More and more younger writers are being drawn towards this particular style of writing. As we got talking, I also found out that something needed to be done about it. As these authors do not get a platform or that kind of proper support from publishers and other people who might like to read that kind of literature, we thought of this.

Why now?
We thought that it is a great time that this genre is growing within this country, and is becoming exceedingly popular abroad where Nordic Noir has taken over. There are so many Scandinavian authors who’ve done well. While Crime Writing in India has always been popular at the language level, for instance, in Bengali literature, there’s Byomkesh Bakshi; these narratives figured more as detective stories or whodunits. With writers like Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramaniam Ashok Banker, and Raj Kundra giving impetus to this genre, things are exciting now.

Tell us more about the association…
Namita and I met the Crime Writers’ Association based in the UK, and also chaired by a woman, Alison Joseph. She was very supportive. It started with the concept that they had a very thriving Crime Writers’ Association there. They felt we could take some ideas and set up a body here that is loosely associated with them and other literature fora. We began meeting authors like Ashwin Sanghi who is one of the best-selling authors in this vein and extremely enthusiastic supporter of the idea. Preeti Paul who runs the Kolkata Literary Fest is another founder member. Namita Gokhale and I form the four.

So where is this headed?
We are going to have a short story competition soon and are also working towards holding a festival for Crime Writing in September in Delhi. It will have foreign, South Asian and of course, Indian authors that write fiction and non-fiction. We will be hosting workshops and looking at cinema and television and how that supports this genre of writing. The focus will be on older writers such as Agatha Christie, to examine their styles. 

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