The Local Flavour: Research In Writing

Here’s a brief announcement. The interview scheduled for March 15 with Vikram Sampath has, I am afraid, been postponed.  He has been awfully busy the last few weeks and travelling like crazy. It is understandable that he asked for some more time to participate in the series of interviews I am doing on this blog called, “Meet The Author.”Stay tuned for more on this.

What I am about to say next may sound like sacrilege to some of you. Can a great author like Jeffrey Archer make what, I for one, consider elementary mistakes? Let me say that I admire Archer immensely. I consider him  to be master of our craft and The Storyteller.

I was therefore shocked to find that a short story I read with great interest because it was set in India did not do justice to the local flavour. This was in The New Collected Short Stories, if I remember correctly. A police officer in Mumbai is called “Anil Khan.” Anil is a common Hindu name and Khan a common Muslim one. While such a name cannot be ruled out from the realms of possibility, it is most unlikely that someone would have a name like that. Of course, I do recognize that there are people with a combination of Hindu and Muslim names like Javed Anand, but all that I am saying is that it doesn’t capture the true local flavour. The police officer in question would have been better off being named Anil Sarwate or Javed Khan, for that matter.

Later in the same story we are told an office on the outskirts of Mumbai is located at “47, Mahatma Drive.” Come, Sir. Surely there are more authentic names available than this stereotypical one:)

I have tried in my writing to capture the “local flavour” as best as I could. In “It Can’t Be You” my debut novel, a psychological thriller, I made sure that Elena Dietrich’s office was in Weissensee, a commercial part of Berlin, and her boss was Herr Hugo Brownlitz of the firm Brownlitz and Helger. Elena , you might recall, started life as a plumber’s daughter from Lichtenberg.


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