Vaseem Khan is the author of two award-winning crime series set in India, the Baby Ganesh Agency series set in modern Mumbai, and the Malabar House historical crime novels set in 1950s Bombay. His first book, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was selected by the Sunday Times as one of the 40 best crime novels published 2015-2020, and is translated into 16 languages. The second in the series won the Shamus Award in the US. In 2018, he was awarded the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Award for Literature. Vaseem was born in England, but spent a decade working in India. In 2021, Midnight at Malabar House won the Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger, the world’s premier award for historical crime fiction. His latest book is The Dying Day about the theft of one of the world’s great treasures, a 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, stored at Bombay’s Asiatic Society.
Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?
THE LOST MAN OF BOMBAY, the third book in my Malabar House series, is out in August. (The first, Midnight at Malabar House, won the CWA Historical Dagger and was shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year)… Frankly, I’d buy it just for the amazing cobra on the cover! It’s set in 1950 in Bombay, India. A white man is found frozen to death in a cave in the Himalayan foothills. His face is crushed, making his identity a mystery. When the case lands on Persis’ desk (Persis is India’s first female police Inspector), she discovers a notebook on the body holding a series of cryptic clues. As Persis and Archie Blackfinch (her English co-investigator) chase down the clues, more murders occur in Bombay… of Europeans … Could there be a serial killer loose in the city? Pre-orders really help so don’t be shy! You can pre-order here.
If a film was being made about your life, who would you want to play you?
A Frankenstein monster made up of parts from various actors. Clooney obviously; Bogart – I’ve always wanted to wear a Fedora; and a Bollywood actor for the bit about the ten years I lived in India – Shah Rukh Khan, who is probably the only one anyone in the west has ever heard of, and who isn’t dead or over 70.
If I could grant you 1 wish, what would it be?
That all of the worst people in the world would be forced to read my books over and over again until they became nicer people. That’s the effect my books have. I’m not kidding! Readers have told me so.
When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
I don’t Google myself. I have nephews and nieces who do that for me. They think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread just because I’m on the Internet. I just hope they never come across the other stuff…
If you could host a literary dinner party, which 5 authors (dead or alive) would you invite and what food would you serve?
You bet your ass this is going to be a Big Fat Asian Dinner. Curry so hot it’ll blow the top of your head off!… Who would I invite?
Tolkien – so I can ask him why Sauron always gets a bad rap. Those sneaky elves and hobbits stole his bloody ring! That’s theft in my book and he had every right to lay waste to Middle Earth to get it back.
Agatha Christie, obviously. My style is compared to hers – so much so that I’ve been invited to speak at this year’s International Agatha Christie Festival in her hometown of Torquay. I’d like to ask her where, and with whom, she was shacked up when she went missing…Saucy mare.
Sir Terry Pratchett – I wouldn’t be an author today without him. I wrote my first novel aged 17 after reading his Discworld books, and sent it into agents. One small problem. The book was crap.
Salman Rushdie – people may know Rushdie because of the controversy around The Satanic Verses, but this is the book that proves he is a literary genius. Best book about India I’ve ever read. Plus I could do with a fatwa to help raise my global profile.
Gail Honeyman – who wrote the brilliant Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and then vanished! Where are you, Gail!
Finally, please recommend 3 books that you’ve recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen them.
IMPERIUM by Robert Harris. The first in a bestselling trilogy about the legendary Roman lawyer and statesman Cicero, as told through the voice of his amanuensis, Tiro. The narrative is slow-burning, but I found the depiction of Rome – and the portrayals of the empire’s most well-known names – Caesar, Pompeii, Crassus – a delight.
THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce. The story of a man who goes to post a letter and then just keeps walking. His destination: a woman he once worked with and who is now dying. As Harold’s incredible journey moves through England we learn about his past and his relationship with not only the dying woman, but his wife and son.
SLOUGH HOUSE by Mick Herron. The latest in Herron’s bestselling series featuring a cast of misfit spies in bad odour with the British government. Their leader, Jackson Lamb, is a fabulously anti-establishment, politically incorrect slob – but the sharpest spook in the drawer. The books are now a TV series featuring Gary Oldman.