Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A.X. Ahmad

A.X. Ahmad was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked internationally as an architect. His short stories have been published in literary magazines, and he’s been listed in Best American Essays. The Caretaker is his first novel, to be followed by Bollywood Taxi next year. He lives in Washington, D.C.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what he was reading.  Ahmad's reply:
Imagine a great literary author who starts writing mysteries. Added to his gorgeous prose a clever plot, and the dank, gray setting of Dublin in the 1950s.

John Banville won the Booker Prize for The Sea, and that seemed to have loosened him up. Since then he’s been writing a series of mysteries under the pen name ‘Benjamin Black’, featuring a detective named Quirke, and they are stunners. I’ve read them all, and now am re-reading them.

Check out this prose from his first book, Christine Falls:

“The corpse was that of a young woman, slim and yellow-haired; she had been pretty, but death had robbed her of her features and now she might be a carving in soapstone, primitive and bland…. Looking more closely he noticed the dark roots of her hair at the forehead and temples: dead, and not even a real blonde.”

Another Brit that I’ve been reading lately is Martin Booth. Like me, he lived a peripatetic life, growing up in many countries, and each of his suspense novels deals obsessively with people trying to find a place they can call home.

His last book, The American is about a gunsmith who supplies weapons to assassins. Apart from a crackerjack plot, it is also a love letter to a small Italian hill town where the gunsmith finds a few months of rest. There, he befriends a priest, and the two often meet to drink brandy:

“The priest’s house is halfway alongst a twisting alley…a modest fifteenth century edifice…The front door is of heavy oak blackened with age and studded with iron bolts…at the rear snuggles a walled garden, overlooked by other buildings yet remaining secluded….We are sitting on this patio…We are in lazy soporific sunlight. The brandy bottle—today we have Armagnac—is globulous, made of of green glass and bears a plain label…It is called, simply, La Vie.”
Learn more about the book and author at A.X. Ahmad's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Caretaker.

--Marshal Zeringue