India’s Favourite Crime-Writing Duo on their latest book:
By Arun Pratap Singh
It is always a pleasure to meet Aloke Lal and Maanas Lal, the famed father-son duo of the valley. Their association with Garhwal Post began when the former joined the Uttarakhand IPS cadre in November 2000, soon after the new state was carved out. Both the Lals have been active in the cultural spheres, and Garhwal Post has had the pleasure to carry a number of their well-received articles.
We had an interaction with them recently. Here are some snippets from our conversation.
GP: Congratulations on the release of your latest book – the third in a matter of less than four years. That’s impressive output!
Aloke Lal: Thank you. We are driven by an urge to communicate with our readers. They have been generous and our books have been well-received. There are many more to come.
Maanas Lal: I have always been drawn strongly to the written word. I have been penning essays since my school days. Since my father was writing frequently for the print media, I did not have to look too far for inspiration. Our partnership in long form writing helps us deliver the prolific output you talked about.
GP: Tell us something about the journey so far.
Aloke Lal: It has been an enjoyable and rewarding one. There was always this germ in me to write, and I only needed an excuse to graduate to writing books. Of course, I soon realised that writing articles and books are two different ball games. A lot more time, concentration, writing discipline and effort go into producing a volume. In my case, the association of Maanas played an important role. He is the one who dug out stories and convinced me to attempt full-fledged books on them. I could never have imagined that the books would be published by marquee publication houses like Hachette, Bloomsbury and Om.
Maanas Lal: I am glad that my father has acknowledged that I played a role in his graduation to the avatar of an author. He has also often spoken about the significant contributions that my mother has made. She is the one who has a great ability to recall incidents, persons and places. I have so far been writing books in association with my father, but I am already working on a couple of manuscripts which I am penning exclusively. The journey has been nothing short of a dream. The fact that some of our books are being adapted for the screen by leading producers makes our work even more exciting. There is a lot to look forward to for both of us and our readers.
GP: We can understand that the making of a book must be quite a huge challenge when compared to writing an article. An analogy I can think of is the production of a music video on the one hand and a full-length feature film on the other.
Aloke Lal: Yes, that’s an apt analogy. There is a plot to which almost everything that happens in a feature film has to relate. Likewise, the book has to have a common thread which runs through its chapters. Of course, there are compilations, which may be a collection of different stories, but often even there some commonalities remain.
Maanas Lal: Talking of compilations, our latest offering ‘On the Trail of Thugs and Thieves’ is also a collection of true accounts of crime from the Hindi heartland. The common factor is that they are all stories of crimes and their investigations had my father’s participation in different capacities as a police officer.
GP: The readers loved your earlier books, ‘The Babrabanki Narcos’ and ‘Murder in the Bylanes’. What has been the response to ‘On the Trail of Thugs and Thieves’?
Aloke Lal: The book was released just a month ago. The response of, both, lay readers and critics has been heart-warming. We had a number of purchases at the pre-release stage itself. We are looking forward to bumper sales because we have announced that the royalty that accrues to us would be donated for the Odisha rail tragedy victims. Through Garhwal Post I want to appeal to its readers to buy the book in large numbers to help this great cause.
Maanas Lal: I am pleased to add that there were a number of bulk orders at the pre-release stage itself. In fact, three orders of hundred copies each were placed. Our book has been picked up by a very large number of readers online and continues to hold onto the top positions of the Amazon charts in its genre. A reprint is already in the offing. As for critical acclaim, leading reviewer Tania Saili Bakshi who reviewed the book for Garhwal Post called it ‘A must-have on your bookshelf!’. A lot of readers have praised the book for its wit and woman-centric narration.