Back in 2007, when Pritham Chakravarthy and I first started looking for material to include in The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, one of the authors we looked at was historical novelist Chandilyan (சாண்டில்யன், sometimes Romanized as Sandilyan). Pritham decided against including him, for several reasons (he's not really pulp--gets published in hardcover these days; the novels are really long; the action unfolds slowly, with a lot of elaborate flowery description and romantic banter which is really really hard to get sounding smooth in translation.)
We both sort of wish we could have done it, though. Pritham remembers that her mother read Chandilyan at home, but kept the books off-limits for her--"too racy", it seems. So naturally she read them as soon as she got the chance. She also remembers meeting the author a few times when she was young. I myself have been keen on learning more about the novels because
a) The author seems to be a perennial bestseller. Even though they're 50 years old, the books are still available in virtually every bookshop in the state (including some online stores, here for example). There's also a fair amount of blog discussion about the books.
b) The historical setting is really interesting, something that English readers have hardly been exposed to.
c) the covers are simply *drool*. Most of them are apparently done by an artist named Latha, about whom I know nothing except that he or she is totally awesome. Check out this hardcover for the novel Rajathilagam.
(I love the way the author/title information spills off the spine... I don't think I have seen this on any other book. It just about forces you to pick the thing up when you see it on a shelf.)
Chandilyan's novels typically feature a pseudo-historical Tamil hero, together with an exotic foreign beauty, embroiled in the tangled political intrigues of the Asian age of empires. There's a very popular one called Yavana Rani about a Tamil trader's love affair with a Greek queen, and then there's Kadal Pura, about a Chola general and a Javanese princess. It's fun to see Asian heroes get to do the exotic-Bond-girl thing. It's also interesting that while Chandilyan's protagonists are all these hardcore Dravidian braves, the author himself was a staunch Iyengar Brahmin.
(The office of Chandilyan's publishers, Vanathi Pathippagam, in T. Nagar has a beautiful selection of the original paintings by Latha and Maniyan Selvam used for these covers, all around the walls of the main office, about 9 feet off the floor.)
Don't it look fun? Hopefully this stuff will come out in translation one of these days. Pritham even has a few chapters already done we may try to post as an excerpt somewhere soon.