Have you taken a look at the novels available at the book kiosks at railway stations where Agatha Christies and Perry Masons are placed side-by-side with books printed on cheapish paper, often with garish covers? Welcome to the world of regional pulp fiction.
Technically speaking, Pulp fiction is a pejorative term referring to fast-paced, violent and usually lurid stories. The term originated because the paper on which it was printed was of cheap quality. Over the time, many veterans of the genre, such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, came to be recognised as masters of the ‘hard-boiled’ genre.
Regional pulp fiction is now slowly attracting more eyeballs. Some years back, one saw pulp fiction from Tamil being translated into English, with the compilations winning rave reviews. Now it is the turn of Hindi. HarperCollins is bringing out ace crime writer Surendra Mohan Pathak’s works, both in English and Hindi, incidentally translated by the author himself.
For those who do not know who the man is, Pathak is the author of over 300 novels and has a large fan following in the Hindi belt. He started his career translating the James Bond novels into Hindi. Since then, he has gone places. Diamonds are for all is the English translation of the book, Heera Pheri.
The book is set against the backdrop of the Mumbai underworld. Our protagonist, Jeet Singh, is a master locksmith, and because of his skill, is a favourite of the gangsters when they want a safe cracked. Singh keeps getting entangled in one troublesome situation after another, somehow managing to keep himself one step ahead of the cops. He now works as a taxi driver in Mumbai, using an alias.
As the story begins, one of Mumbai’s underworld dons is expecting a huge consignment of diamonds. The handover goes off smoothly. But one of the couriers wants all of the stuff for himself. Trouble is, some other gangsters also want the diamonds.
As Singh’s luck would have it, the courier ends up in his taxi. Later, the man jumps off the taxi, leaving behind a briefcase. He is found tortured to death. Now Singh is left holding a briefcase he does not want, but which everyone else wants.
This one is full of the pulp tropes, minus sultry femme fatales. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and there is a twist in the tale not many will see coming.
The book is a part of a series, hence many will be confused by some events previously occurred.
But overall, here is to more worthy additions to the pulp genre.