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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Author Interview : Monabi Mitra, author of 'The Final Report'

‘The Final Report’ came to an end with a want for more.
Cases, crime, and a mystery are all a part of this saga. Yet, there was something a lot more human to the whole book.
It probably was what the author had, which had me as a reader think about what exactly happens in her home, that left me wondering. But, I guess it was the human touch that she draws on, which made me lap it up at one go. 

You can read its Review here and Buy it Here, too! So, let us read on; the interview with Monabi Mitra…

How did ‘The Final Report’ happen?

This book is the last in a three book series which, Penguin signed
me up for in 2010. The first two books, F.I.R and The Dead Don't Confess were published in 2012 and 2013, respectively. 

The Final Report, as its name suggests, provides a sense of closure by bringing the lives of the principal characters to a natural conclusion within the framework of a crime that is being investigated.

What kind of research did you put into the writing of the book?

All three books are police procedurals, which is a specific kind of crime novel focusing on the processes behind an investigation and the systems of the police that are used to try and solve a crime.

I spent time talking to police officers, getting them to narrate actual experiences and reading books dealing with criminology and forensic science. Being married to a policeman helped, I could eavesdrop without guilt and see the realities of how crime work is carried out.  

What according to you is different about your book?

Unlike popular perceptions, shaped by contemporary cinema especially Bollywood, policing is not all guns and glamour. There are times when nothing happens and a homicide case drags on, or when things do happen but go horribly wrong for the police because the wrong person has been arrested and the facts don't fit

At all times there is endless paperwork, formality, hidden pressures and huge gaps in the investigation as policemen are involved in managing demonstrations and other law and order duties.  This is where my book comes in - it shows policing as a matter of unromantic, endless tedium as it really is.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it? 

I was inspired to write because I saw, from a day to day perspective, how policemen in India work. 

The idea was to create a fictional Crime Branch, with a group of officers working in a team and follow them through various cases.  

How would you relate the book and its characters to your day to day lives?


Creative imagination is complex and real people may have influenced some of the characters in my novel. Certainly, the crime novel framework is a good way to understand human actions and the hidden spring of human emotions. 

Greed and lust, desire for wealth and power or revenge, these provide the basis for most criminal acts. I set my novel in a city-Calcutta, because urbanisation brings so many different people together, all packed in one dense mass, where moral and social degradations are easier to understand.

In this book, as in the others I have at least one point-of-view character with whom a reader can identify as the events unfold. To show how crime affects the ordinary lives of ordinary men and women is an important aspect of this book.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

A writer works best when he can get under the skin of all his characters and represent them fully. Having said that, I do admit that I enjoyed writing the portions with Moloyendu Ghosh the most.

He is a fat, unhealthy, weary Crime Branch Inspector, a few months away from retirement, who is solidly dependable, who distrusts new, fangled ideas and beliefs and places his faith in the eternal values of truth and courage

And of course, I love DSP Bikram Chatterjee-  "no Chulbul Pandey" as one review has noted, but with hidden anxieties and insecurities and a desire to do his duty as well as he can.  In a way, it seems sad to say goodbye to him!  

Could you tell the readers about your past experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?

Everything that I wrote, I owe to the policemen I met over the years.  I saw their frailties and wickedness, their sacrifices and nobility, their joys and sorrows. I saw how they were loved as individuals by their friends or family and yet collectively ridiculed or baited by the non-police public

All these shaped the way my characters developed. The incident in the Armenian Club, with officer Sheena Sen in the first part of the book is a good example of how a police officer is likely to be treated in a public gathering.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing a book?

To finish checking the final PDF and press the Send button for it to wing its way to the Press! No more late nights hunched over a computer or stopping in my work in the middle of the day because Chapter 7 has suddenly, miraculously, sorted itself out because of a new idea.  

I have a rough sketch of the event flow, but rely on the tale to grow in the telling, and the best part of writing is to see where the events lead and what the characters do.

What is the next book that you have planned? When do you see it released?

I haven't planned anything yet, but I know I will keep on writing because one writes, not because one wants to, but because one has to.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Nobody. I grew up in a household laden with books. I was a lonely child and read and read, till the boundaries between the real world and the make believe began to get blurred. 

Stories buzzed around in my head till there was no other way but put them down on paper.

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?

Getting published is easier today than it ever was - look at the explosion of books and writing in the last ten years or so. The only thing to watch out for is to balance the literary with the popular and the commercial. 

If a book has sincerity of thought and expression it shouldn't be difficult to convince a publisher to get it going.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

Edgar Wallace
I enjoy reading crime novels, especially the "golden age" writers including forgotten authors like Josephine Tey and  Edgar Wallace.


Which book are you currently reading?

‘Death Wasn't Painful’ by Dhirendra S Jafa (Sage 2014) is a moving account of life as a POW in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.  The narrative is fast paced and the story is a poignant reminder of India's unsung heroes. 

What else do you do on a daily basis?

I am a Professor of English literature by day and a crime writer at night. Two very different worlds, but the combination keeps me going.
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