It was a grand opportunity for book readers and book lovers in Kolkata to have the first crime fiction festival in the world celebrated at the second session of day 2 of the Kolkata Literature Festival 2017. Bloody Scotland celebrates international crime writers from all over the world on an annual basis. The session saw a comparison of the genre in Europe and the East.
The panel comprised Lin Anderson, the co-founder of Bloody Scotland crime writing festival and a recent chair of Society of Authors in Scotland, Doug Johnstone, the author of eight standalone crime novels, Jenny Brown, the former Head of Literature at the Scottish Art Council, Monabi Mitra, author and associate professor of English at Scottish Church College and Bengali author Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay.
Jenny Brown, the Chair of Bloody Scotland and Vice-Chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival moderated the session. She opened the discussion with the comment, “The crime fiction writers are the loveliest people because they take our angst off to the page.”
Lin Anderson is the author of two crime series- the well-established Rhona MacLeod and the Patrick de Courvoisier series set in France. She recalled the influence of such works by Robert Louis Stevenson as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island in shaping crime writing in English.
“In Scotland and the UK, crime is the top genre of writing. We love reading crime fiction,” remarked Jenny Brown.
Mitra said, “Bloody Scotland is honoring crime fiction. Historically it is associated with something brutal. This is not its image everywhere. In India, H.R.F. Keating introduced the possibility of having a Bombay Police officer to the world. The disturbing duality of an urban setting has lately seen a resurgence.” She mentioned some contemporaries like Vikram Chandra as contributing to the genre.
“As a writer in Bengali, he provided a picture of this genre as it is closer home,” began Mukhopadhyay who has authored the famous Papbiddho and other books. He continued, “Crime fiction in Bengali began around 100 years ago under Panchkori Dey. The plots revolved around police cases then.”
He stated how Sharadindu Bandopadhyay’s Detective Byomkesh was constructed around Holmes’ model of a detective and his assistant who narrates the plot. “Nowadays, unfolding mysteries are getting more popular,” he added. “Our readers are different from those of the West. We have mostly kids reading crime fiction. We usually keep in mind our juvenile audience while writing.”
Doug Johnstone said, “I have moved from less physically explicit stories to more emotionally disturbing ones. This is not intentional on my part. If you’re not respecting the characters, you’re also not respecting your readers.”
Lin recalled that her father was a detective. She described, “To make my character a forensic scientist instead of a detective was the best decision. Every crime plot is about a character not so much as it is about the plot.”
The writers elucidated how cities, be it Calcutta or Glasgow, make the apt setting for crime thrillers because of their cosmopolitan composition.
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