Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nowhere to Hide, Chapter 1

We're happy to present an excerpt from Tamil Pulp Fiction Volume 3 -- the first chapter of the Indra Soundar Rajan novel we'll be including in the anthology.

Nowhere To Hide
by Indra Soundar Rajan

translated by Rashmi Ruth Devadasan and V. Vinod

Chapter 1

June. Ash-coloured rainclouds crowded out the Chennai sky.  As he kickstarted his TVS Victor, Rajendran hoped the clouds would stay there, and not scatter to let through the blazing sun. A leather bag was slung over his shoulder; from the container inside, the aroma of the tomato rice his mother had prepared for him found its way up into his nose, like a spray of sweet perfume. “No one like Amma!” he said aloud.

The bike started with the first kick.

A motorbike, on Chennai city’s busy roads, is far more useful than a car. You can squeeze through cycle-sized gaps in the traffic and keep moving. Which is just what Rajendaren did.

He had to be in his office seat by ten o’clock. It was a big responsibility, the job of an editor. Piled on his table was a mountain of papers, letters, stories, and poems. He had to carefully read through all of them and select the most interesting ones. On top of that, he frequently had to go out and find the houses of VIPs to take interviews. There would be plenty of incidents to test his patience, but he had to always keep his cool; he had to achieve his target. If he let himself get frustrated, he’d miss the rolling egg and it would break. Rajendran had a lot of experience.

Today his senior editor had called him in for an urgent meeting. When he called a meeting like that, it meant he had hooked a big fish, a vilanga meen. Rajendran wondered, as he rode his bike, what it was all about.

His youth made him fearless, and he rode fast.  Ten minutes after leaving home, he would be there in his seat. It was just four kilometers away. But within those four kilometers were four traffic signals…

He maneuvered through all of them, and within ten minutes he’d turned in past the signboard of the famous Tamil Nadu investigative weekly Selvam, and stopped his bike.

He parked the Victor at the side of the building, adjusted his leather bag, and walked into his office. On his table was a small slip of paper. “Meet the editor immediately,” the note read. He knew the handwriting; it belonged to the editor’s assistant, Banumathi. He carefully placed his leather bag in a corner under his table and left immediately.

It was a big press, one that sold lakhs of copies of various publications. He walked past the harsh smell of ink that made him wrinkle his nose, and the cold blast from the air conditioner that chilled his skin, until he stood in front of the senior editor’s cabin.

Inside stood the editor, deep in thought.  Rajendran opened the door half-way and said, “Good morning, sir.”

“Very good morning. Come in, pa,” said the editor. He sat down as Rajendran entered, and signaled to Rajendran to be seated as well.

“Yes, sir?”

“An important assignment, Rajendran.”

“Great, sir.  Tell me.”

“Do you believe in ghosts? Demons?”

What a question for the opening gambit! Rajendran sat up in surprise. “What’s going on, sir?” he asked.

“Answer my question first.”

“No, sir. I don’t.”

“Good—so you and I are in the same political party. Now listen. A girl from a village called Ayakudi has sent us letter.  Somewhere near that place there are some strange and unaccountable things taking place. She’s written that the village folk say it’s the work of a kaathu karappu—a black wind. An evil spirit.”

Rajendran laughed sarcastically.

“What man, why are you laughing?”

“What else to do but laugh? Superstition is common in villages.”

“That’s fine… but how many village girls write to news offices, asking them to come to their place to uncover the truth?”

“Yes, it’s interesting, sir. Who is this girl?’

“Her name is Chinna Pechi, and her handwriting is as lovely as a string of pearls. She must have completed high school. Or at least, she’s studying. See here.”

Dear Writers and Editors,

I am a reader of your magazine Selvam. In our village there is a Tamil teacher by the name of Din Dayalan; I have read the Selvam issues at his home. The magazine is appropriately named. Truly, I believe  Selvam is a “wealth” for the reader. From tearing off the masks of politicians to publicizing the activities of fake godmen, Selvam is at the forefront of journalism.

I come from a farming family. My father, Ramasamy, is a cow and goat herder; sometimes I accompany him. In our village, there is a forest called kaataan karadu, which is where we let the goats and cattle graze. But lately, the animals are acting scared to go near that place.  My father, too, saw something there that he shouldn’t have seen, and he has not risen from his bed since. Once, one of our goats wandered from the herd and did not return. When I went looking for it, the ground beneath my feet shook where I stood. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before; it was all new and strange.

When I told some people in our village, they said it must be the pranks of the kaathu karuppu,the ghosts who inhabit that part of the forest. My father thinks the same thing. I’m doubtful, though. I think there’s something else shady going on out there. One day I saw a man dressed in prison clothes hiding in a sugarcane field nearby. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he ran into the trees. I think he is up to something out there. 

I’m scared to go to the local police. Illicit country liquor is sold in my village, and I have seen the police take money from the people who sell it. That’s why I’m hesitant to tell them.

From what I’ve seen, I consider your magazine to be a forum for justice. After you’ve read my letter, please do whatever you have to do. I am ready to give whatever help I can.

Chinna Pechi

Rajendran arched his eyebrows in surprise.

“So? What do you say now?” 

“It’s quite fascinating. It also makes me happy, sir, that this village girl thinks of our magazine as ‘a forum for justice’. That’s a big deal.”

“Correct! So start for the village. Show me your detective skills.”

“I’ll leave right away, sir. It sounds like the work of an escaped prisoner to me.”

“I think so too. As a precaution, keep some weapons close at hand. That village falls under Tirunelveli district. The superintendent of police there is a straightforward chap. He’s supported our paper many times. Just check in with him as well.”

“Right, sir. I’ll take care of it,” said Rajendran, standing up.

The editor held out his hand, and Rajendran reciprocated with a hearty handshake.

“Be careful. My personal cell will be on at all times if you need anything.”

Rajendran left the office with a smile.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charu Nivedita, Tarun Tejpal, and the Gutter

by Rakesh

Nobody tells me anything.

Back in April, UK-based magazine Granta published our translation of Subha's Tamil crime novel Look Out, Narendran!. It seemed to be well-received, but yesterday I learned that my friend Charu Nivedita--whose book Zero Degree I helped translate and publish in 2008--had taken exception to my introduction and to my story selection, accusing me of "jumping into the gutter".

But Mr. Rakesh Khanna who’s totally oblivious of the contemporary Tamil literature and as an ardent fan of Tamil pulp fictions, he has peed on the entire Tamil literature by selecting a crime novel writer(s) to represent the “New Indian Writing” in Tamil! Mr. Khanna has showed Tamil writing to the world like a half-pant clad westerner touring India, clicking the roaming cows on the road and exhibiting to his world, “it’s India!”


As a Tamil writer I genuinely have no idea how to come out of this disgrace.

Ha. If you ask me, Charu Nivedita had already disgraced himself pretty badly with this 2013 op-ed defending the rapey behaviour of former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, which, I fear not coincidentally, was written just a few months after Tejpal nominated Charu's book for a Swiss world literature prize.

Talk about the gutter.

I've had little stomach for marketing Zero Degree since I read that piece. I'm close to out of stock and not planning to reprint.

Still, I'll say one thing for Charu's book: it's not boring. I can't say the same for some of the Indian English writers he mentions in his post about the Granta intro, whom he feels are too classy to be put in the same league as mere crime writers like Subha.

Of course there is lots of other good, exciting recent writing in Tamil that I didn't have space to mention in my 500-word Granta intro. I surely didn't mean to "pee on it". But I'd say even those novelists--and surely Amit Chaudhuri, Tejpal, and Nivedita himself--could benefit from a masterclass in narrative pacing with Suresh and Balakrishnan (the duo that writes as Subha). These guys spent over twenty years writing a gripping thriller novel every month, and they made a living selling them--at the beginning--for two rupees a pop. I think that deserves some respect.

If you agree, and if you don't find good pulp fiction too disgraceful, please do swing by our crowdfunding campaign, and help us fund our next anthology of Tamil translations.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Help Crowdfund The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. 3


We’re hugely grateful to you, our readers, for giving Blaft so much support over the years—buying our books, spreading the word about their existence, showing us love and support through reviews and shout-outs on social media. All this has helped take our books into homes all over the country and beyond—especially our bestsellers, The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, which have been more successful than we’d ever imagined.

But, as they say, all good things come in threes. In keeping with that adage, we are excited to announce our Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund the production of The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. 3.

With your direct support, we can bring this much-asked-for third installment to life. Click here to place an advance order for your very own copy of The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. 3—a collection of mind-bending tales of murder, mystery, and interplanetary abduction, penned by the grandmasters of Tamil crime, horror, and science fiction.

Please do share/tweet/post this project.


Sunday, March 22, 2015


We're teaming up with The Sunday Book Club for a bunch of Twitter giveaways this week.

We'll be giving away copies of our comics/street art anthologies The Obliterary Journal, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Kuzhali Manickavel's new collection of "South Indian experimental feminist" short fiction Things We Found During the Autopsy, Vishwajyoti Ghosh's postcard book Times New Roman & Countrymen, and the romantic monster-love picture book Kumari Loves a Monster by Rashmi Ruth Devadasan and Shyam.

Follow both @TSBookClub and @blaftness on Twitter. Answer questions and win free books!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2012 & 2013 titles now available in the US

At long last, our 2012 and 2013 releases are now available in the USA from the excellent Berkeley, California-based Small Press Distribution.

Click on each cover to read a description or to order.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel

We promised this book in February, then in August. Now it's finally available, and you should read it, because Kuzhali is totally amazing.

We made a book trailer. Check it out:

Buy the print book online from here or here, or buy the ebook from here, here, or here. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Maharaja of Tamil Pulp steps up output

Rajesh Kumar, the most insanely prolific of the many Tamil pulp fiction authors whose work we featured in The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. I and Vol. II, has apparently begun writing even faster. The Coimbatore-based writer has been averaging three new titles a month since he got started in 1968, and was reportedly up to a lifetime total of around 1500 books. Now, however, our local tea kadai proprietor tells us that he's stocking eight or nine new Rajesh Kumar novels every month.

Let's repeat that: Eight or nine novels. Every month.

If you aren't familiar with the Rajesh Kumar yugam, peruse this profile by Samanth Subramanian.

Also, check out this interview of G Asokan, one of Rajesh Kumar's publishers, where he reminisces about the eighties when television had not yet taken over people's lives.

Here are a few of this month's Rajesh Kumar covers: