In August 2022, Hachette India published my comedy novel, Death on Diagonal Lane. I announced it in this post.
But Death on Diagonal Lane is actually part of a trilogy. All three parts of the trilogy are written and ready-to-publish. Hopefully, one of these days all three parts will get published.
Here is an overview of the Diagonal Lane books...
The Diagonal Lane Trilogy tells the story Diagonal Lane, an unremarkable neighborhood on the outskirts of an ordinary South Indian city, although the people who live there are anything but ordinary or unremarkable .
Diagonal Tales, the first part, is a collection of short stories about the individual lives of the colorful characters who populate Diagonal Lane. The back-stories of many of the characters in the subsequent two volumes are recounted here.
Death on Diagonal Lane, the second part, and the only one to be published as of 2022, tells the story of how the denizens of Diagonal Lane have their lives turned upside down when one of them is found dead in suspicious circumstances and an over-ambitious police officer tries to build it into something bigger than it is.
The Vitusakan Papers, the third part, is a story of how the neighborhood is engulfed in a political-religious storm that sweeps the nation.
This is the cover of Death on Diagonal Lane, the only one to be published as of date.
On the left is the concept cover that I had designed for the book. On the right is the cover designed by the Hachette design consultant, which is the one that was published.
These are the blurbs of the three books...
A dusty lane meandering through a nondescript suburb of a South Indian city like any other. But for Mr. Murthy, an elderly widower living alone in a cold flat in one of those bland apartment blocks, this particular lane is rich with eccentric characters and implausible tales. As he puts it, ‘On a street that houses a bona fide cock and a veritable bull, can cock and bull stories be far behind? Not least, when its many human inhabitants manage a bare evolutionary step above barnyard beasties?’ Bitter, yes. For Mr. Murthy has seen the seamier side of life. But his acerbic tongue and seemingly warped view of humanity hide a gentle soul.
Sit back, take a sip of filter coffee and munch a handful of banana chips, as Mr. Murthy recounts waspishly of the cocks and bulls and dentists and ballerinas of Diagonal Lane. In these pages you will find Dr. Padmanabha, the mad dentist, who goes around giving root canals to all and sundry, whether they need it or not. Murugan the Milkman, who has attempted several decades without success to milk a bull and refuses to give up. Retired Brigadier Thimappa, whose passion for women and mutton curry almost proves his undoing. Srirangapatna and his Russian ex-ballerina wife, Mrs. Bromowitz, who run a not-very-successful dance school and, so vicious rumors have it, run a side business stealing anklet bells of their students and selling them on the black market. Old Mr. Reddy, who walks his pet goat each day at dawn, on a dog leash. His wife Mrs. Reddy, whose life’s work it is to poison her husband with her foul sambar. And many more, each pottier than the other.
A collection of humorous short stories set on the outskirts of a sprawling South Indian city that shall remain nameless.
Death on Diagonal Lane
(This is the original blurb that I had written. The published blurb was written by the Hachette editorial team)
Diagonal Lane is thrown into turmoil when old Mr. Reddy is found dead in suspicious circumstances. Friendly neighbor Mr. Murthy attempts to keep the police out of it. Friendly neighbor Mr. Shetty bungles it up, and the police do get involved. The police officer who lands up to investigate turns out to be Mr. Murthy’s old school chum: Sub Inspector Rathindranath (Ratty) Gowda. A stroke of good fortune? Not really. You see, Ratty is a sub inspector on the make, one who itches to get the sub off his title and his name in the yellow headlines. He proceeds to put the denizens of Diagonal Lane through the wringer. It takes all of Mr. Murthy’s tact and diplomacy to prevent his childhood chum from putting behind bars all the leading lights of the lane. But meddling too much in murky police affairs, even for purely public-spirited reasons, can sometimes backfire. It does not take Mr. Murthy long to appreciate the veracity of that old adage: Policemen have no friends.
A dark comedy on contemporary middle-class India. A sardonic whodunit that lays bare how this sort of thing really happens in life-as-we-know-it, rather than in the comforting, otherworldly pages of Agatha Christie.
This work can be seen as a somber satire on the fragility of Indian middle-class existence. However, at first glance, it reads like a light farce replete with scintillating repartee, barmy characters and a Kafkaesque plot that piles absurdity on absurdity. Most readers will regard it as a ‘fun read’.
The Vitusakan Papers
Diagonal Lane is thrown afresh into turmoil when Movie Superstar Radhika
comes down for a visit. This is actually a homecoming of sorts for her, she
having spent the better part of her childhood living with Auntie and Uncle
Reddy in their modest apartment on the lane. But this is no nostalgia trip. MS
Radhika has come incognito, disguised in a burka. She is on the run from an
assorted gang of taxmen, policemen, murderous thugs, and corrupt politicians. In
his adopted role as her guardian angel, it will take all of Mr. Murthy’s
sagacity to extricate his protégé from the hot pepper rasam. More so, as Radhika
is not being entirely aboveboard. There is a dark secret that she is hiding. A
secret that has to do with an ugly, tangled, spaghetti-like mess of religion,
politics and archeology that goes under the codename ‘The Vitusakan Papers’.
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