The story behind the Timbuktu book goes back, in a fun way, to about 2006.
I was masquerading as a Japanese writer in a writers forum. The hoax worked and I ended up writing Sherlock Holmes in Japan, which was published by Harper Collins. Poisoned Pen Press acquired the rights for the US market and republished it as Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Japan. It was a really nice experience working with Barbara Peters and her team. One thing led to another and we discussed the next book in the series. Greenland? Mongolia? China? Africa?
Well, Mongolia and China seemed too close, so we decided on Africa. It has colour, charm and history and it would be interesting to see Sherlock Holmes smoking a pipe deep in Africa. But where? South Africa? Zambia? Egypt?
Timbuktu suddenly struck me. It has an exotic ring and is sufficiently mysterious to merit a second look. I looked deeper into the matter and discovered that the great Islamic traveller, Ibn Batuta, had visited the place. Timbuktu was a very prominent place for trade and Islamic studies. It is at the edge of the Sahara and was the starting point for the Trans-Saharan caravans. The Tuaregs were the mystery men of the desert, which they called the Tinariwen, and could easily feature in the plot.
Ibn Batuta had also visited Calicut in India and – goodness! – so had Marco Polo! Something stirred. How could I link both these men based on just this fact? Things started falling in place.
I love research, and especially enjoy correlating events in the same time window. My job was to find a credible set of real events in the 1891-94 period. That wasn’t too difficult. I also looked at two scripts, the Tifinagh of the Tuaregs and the Meroitic of the great Meroes of the lower Nile. Slowly, the book emerged.
Ultimately, it is the moulding of the story by your editors and well-wishers which make a book come alive. Writing need not be a lonely task. I had a great time writing Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Timbuktu, almost as a collaborative effort.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vasudev was born in Delhi and has meandered around the world with lengthy stopovers in Tallahassee and Dallas. His books span a variety of interests, from Indian classical music to crime fiction, humor, and business management. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India where he runs a consulting firm.