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Ravi Subramanian's short and slick murder mysteries

Ravi Subramanian’s new crime shorts series, co-written with various authors, departs from his familiar banking thrillers

The covers of the launch titles of the series.
The covers of the launch titles of the series.

Ravi Subramanian, often called the John Grisham of India, is trying his hand at something new. His hot-off-the-press crime fiction series not only departs from his usual forte—thrillers set in the world of finance—but are also co-written with others. And above all, they are faithful to the tag line used to describe the series—“Shortz: Thrills Unlimited".

The launch titles, Insomnia and A Brutal Hand (Westland, 250 each), co-written by Subramanian and Jigs Ashar, both banking professionals-turned-writers, are inspired by best-selling writer James Patterson’s BookShots, Their plots race at breakneck speed, follow a linear trajectory, and are filled with twists and turns. At roughly 150 pages, the books are to be consumed in a breathless gulp.

“Publishers are cagey about taking on new writers in the thriller space," Subramanian says, “So, by offering to co-write, I thought I could do my bit for the genre." Signed on for a dozen books so far, he has found three writers to collaborate with. The number may go up to 6-7 by the end of the series. Depending on its reception, Subramanian may leverage social media to look for partnerships in the future.

After outlining the plots with Subramanian, Ashar composed the first drafts. They fine-tuned subsequent iterations together. Insomnia reads more sophisticated than A Brutal Hand, perhaps because the shorter form doesn’t allow much room for development of character. But both stories pack in a googly in the end. They are distinctly Indian too—in setting, mood and character—and structured as police procedurals. Instead of a slick and suave police detective like P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh, we have true-blue desi officers solving crime here. Particularly endearing is Inspector Abhay Rastogi in A Brutal Hand, plump and unfit, with a fondness for good meals.

Ravi Subramanian (left) and Jigs Ashar.
Ravi Subramanian (left) and Jigs Ashar.

Subramanian appears piqued that the thriller genre hasn’t taken off in India as much as, say, romance and mythological fiction. “This is opposite of the global trend," he says. A well-crafted thriller, he adds, is usually much more demanding than other mass-market genres—that may be one reason for the genre to have not fared well against the competition.

Through these quirky experiments with the shorter format, though, Subramanian wants to give Indian readers a taste of crime fiction that is smart, well-written and, most of all, relatable to their own contexts—not lazy spin-offs of foreign writers. And along the way, he wants to introduce a variety of sub-categories of crime writing to Indian readers, from medical to legal thrillers.

“In the age of OTT platforms, time is in short supply," Subramanian says, “and as writers we have to ensure we do not lose our readers to streaming videos."

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