Sunday, 24 May 2015

Azma Dar - guest blog about The Secret Arts

Azma Dar is a playwright who has turned to crime fiction with a book called  The Secret Arts, published by Dean Street Press, whose eclectic list includes numerous classic crime reprints. I've not yet read her novel, but I'm always pleased to learn of newcomers to the crime writing scene, and here's a guest blog post from her which explains the background:

"Although crime is my favourite genre, I’d always been a bit scared to try my hand at it myself, worried that I wasn’t clever enough to write an ingenious plot. My plays are mostly set in London and explore contemporary themes and issues, serious subjects looked at with, I hope, a bit of humour. I’d wanted to write something about black magic, superstitions and “religious” old men who sold charms and cures for some time. I’d heard of these beliefs whilst growing up. 

Unfortunate events were often attributed to evil eyes and curses, and I was fascinated and angered by how easily these theories, rooted in tradition and culture, were accepted by otherwise intelligent and rational minds. Then, on a trip to Pakistan, I heard even more outlandish but supposedly true anecdotes, involving protective chillis, mystical glasses of water, wicked in-laws, jinns, spirits and the odd boiled egg. The idea for a sinister, murderous novel began to take shape.

During that trip we visited the small town of Murree, a pretty, old fashioned place in the hills, full of forests and precarious winding roads. Most strikingly, it was enveloped in a creeping mist. It would seem like a clear day, then suddenly within minutes you could see no further than a couple of metres. It was all that lovely fog which inspired me to set the novel in Murree. It felt like a really atmospheric backdrop for a spooky story.

The novel became The Secret Arts, the story of Saika, a young woman who marries an older man, a respectable Colonel, but her bliss is short lived when she starts hearing rumours about the suspicious death of his first wife. Meanwhile the rest of the family members are entangled in lies and secrets, meddling in black magic and placing curses on each other. When one of her cousins is murdered, and her husband starts behaving strangely, Saika becomes determined to unravel the truth...."

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