Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?
I write a crime series set in modern India called the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series featuring Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, a one-year old baby elephant. The first in the series The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra was a Times bestseller, an Amazon best debut, and a Waterstones paperback of the year. The latest in the series is out in hardback and is called The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star, about the kidnapping of an Indian film star from in front of a live audience. The book was my excuse to peel back the lid on the world’s most flamboyant movie industry, and examine Bollywood’s dark heart.
My aim with these books is to take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, showcasing both light and dark. You will enjoy these books if you like crime that comes with a real sense of place, and a little gentle humour. They are always compared, positively, to the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, though I feel my books are a bit darker. Chopra is a serious man, and the crimes he tackles are serious ones. But having to deal with the surreal dilemma of a baby elephant allows me to add a little lightness in between the gritty crime stories.
If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?
Citizen Khan and the Temple of Doom – A tale of swashbuckling adventure on the subcontinent (including some management consultancy), endless games of cricket (played badly), two hundred rejection letters (before a four book deal with Hodder), a very large number of big fat Indian weddings … and a thousand elephants!
What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?
I often get ‘threatened’ by fans basically demanding that nothing bad happens to the baby elephant in my series. One older reader even said that I would be an ‘evil man’ if I did that and she would burn my books if that happened. I’m not sure if she was serious, but I’ve started doing book talks with a fire extinguisher strapped to my back.
If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?
I’ve said this elsewhere but my favourite co-author would be Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame. Flynn writes with a dark, caustic style that is exactly the sort of fiction that I personally love to read. Of course, Gone Elephant doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!)
I was once assaulted by a camel. Just standing in a street in India, minding my own business, when a camel walks by and decides to lick my face. Camels are not cuddly. They are large, belligerent, and smell like old carpets. It may sound funny but was quite traumatic at the time. Especially as the ‘assault’ caused me to stumble into an open sewer.
Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.
The Dry by Jane Harper – this book won the CWA Gold Dagger for the best crime book of the year, and you can see why. It is unputdownable. A brilliant plot (about a family who is murdered, and the secrets that haunt the investigating policeman), set in rural Australia, which is vividly brought to life. And it is very, very well written.
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – one of my favourite crime authors. This is her latest Inspector Armand Gamache novel, set in snowy Quebec in Canada. These books are lyrical, with such beautiful prose you almost think you are reading a literary novel. In this one Gamache is on the trail of a murderer at the police academy.
A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin – I was a GoT sceptic until six months ago. Never read it, never seen an episode. Then a friend forced the first book on me. I was blown away. This near 800 page book is wonderfully well-written, and the complex, multi-layered plot is brilliantly handled. Once I’d read it I downloaded six series of the show and binge-watched. That’s how good this book was.
Who is Vaseem Khan: Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in the city of Mumbai, India to work as a management consultant. This surreal sight inspired his Baby Ganesh Agency series of ‘gritty cosy crime’ novels. His aim with the series is to take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India.
His first book THE UNEXPECTED INHERITANCE OF INSPECTOR CHOPRA was a Times Bestseller and an Amazon Best Debut. The second in the series THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN won the 2017 Shamus Award for Best Original Private Investigator Paperback. The third was released in May 2017 – THE STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF A BOLLYWOOD STAR.
Vaseem was born in London in 1973, studied finance at the London School of Economics, before spending a decade on the subcontinent. He returned to the UK in 2006 and has since worked at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.