I have never been much of a book reviewer ever since I started writing. There are manifold reasons to this. The chief reason is because I prefer to appreciate the imagery behind the write, the overarching themes and imagination of the author rather than focus on writing flaws and imperfect similes that also falls to the eventual lot of the reviewer. The other, lesser reason is of course, more mundane. With a demanding career in finance, household responsibilities and my musical wannabe-hobby/career, my writing time is limited.
But this is one review I really wanted to write! I have known Varad’s style of writing plot lines that end with a wicked sting in the tail so I wasn’t really surprised when that became the theme of his debut novel. Here is my take on the book.
Humour: How can a Wodehouse fanatic like me not enjoy the light hearted humour and the silly banters that Varad employs across a variety of tales and characters? The repercussions and repair cushions pun had me in splits.
Plot lines: I think Varad’s best work has been in the development of his detective Malolan’s character and the related plotlines. I can almost visualize the crusty old bachelor and PI plodding around reminiscent of Poirot’s “little grey cells”. The “Anthapura Azhagi” was a masterpiece with an unexpected back story and an intriguing finale. I also enjoyed his description of football manics and the interesting story of an otherwise normal man turned maniac/Ultra who extends a helping hand to a trapped girl in a city only to find her a victim of his earlier crimes. Yet another favourite of mine was his time travel tale and his well researched theory of the mechanics behind it.
Character development: Varad is a pro at this. I always think its the tiniest of details that makes all fictional characters relatable and come alive. I really liked his description of Casey Teo in “Anthapura Azhagi” and that of Park Joo-Won in “Innocence“.
One of the things I would like to see Varad do in his future projects is to experiment different styles of writing. I know the underlying theme of his book was an ending with a twist but the “twist” became the predictable element at the end of each tale.
Verdict: Definite “Yes” to adding it to your “great reads”.
I did a shotgun interview with Varad on a few questions that I had on the book. Below is the gist:
Q: How did you come up with the theme for the book?
A: As you know, this book is an anthology of short stories I wrote during the AtoZ Challenge in April (plus a couple of bonus stories.). The date for theme reveal was March 19th and I hadn’t come up with one yet by the 16th. My wife, Namratha, suggested that I could write a series of stories/ flash fiction ending with a twist. I have a penchant for giving a twist to a story, however short it may be and Namratha told me that I should exploit that. She even suggested the name ‘Varad’s Twisted Tales.’ That sounded a bit grandiose and morbid at the same time. Then I saw someone ordering a cocktail ‘with a twist’ on some TV series. That’s how the theme was born – ‘Tales With A Twist.’
Q: I loved the Repair Cushions & Repercussions pun in the “Repairing Cushions” tale. How did you come up with that?
A: Long ago I read an article about ‘Spoonerism’ on the Young World supplement of Hindu. After reading that I started paying attention to the various spoonerisms we encounter in our lives and realized that kids are a treasure trove of spoonerisms and mispronunciations. My nephew is 7 and my son is 5 and they say a lot of funny stuff when they try to pronounce longer words. Repair Cushions was born when I imagined what are the different ways they might pronounce the word repercussions. The other option I had was reprechuns, like leprechauns.
Q: Is Boss from the “Boss” tale real?
A: I used to work with the TVS Group a long time ago. One of my colleagues, Mr. K. Mani, is the inspiration behind the Boss character. He was a lifer and he had this habit of giving unsolicited advice to almost everyone. But, he was never overtly annoying. It was just the way he was. I think he’d be long retired now.
Q: Malolan is the creme de la creme character in your book. Tell us more about how he came into being.
A: Ah, yes! We, fiction writers are a weird tribe. I’m pretty sure you’d agree to the fact that we live vicariously through our creations. Especially, the adventurous and clever characters are just extensions of the author themselves, like Jack Reacher, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch etc…
So, Malolan Pratap is just Varadharajan Ramesh injected with the secret serum that created Captain America from puny Steve Rogers. There are lot of similarities between me and my fictional counterpart. We both have unfortunate traditional names (and our fathers have much cooler names.) I’m 6’2″, Malolan is 6’3″. Malolan is a trained martial artist, I wanted to become one. Malolan is the sum total of everything positive in me plus the things I lack in my real life.
You can read this ebook for free here.