Saturday 1 November 2014


The other day I was trying to recollect the first book or author which might have made an impact on me . It was not easy for me. Reading habit came relatively late in my life, although I  do not come from such a family background. In fact I might have started enjoying reading- curriculum and non curriculum- after my graduation in engineering! I was trying to narrow down and pin point a book or an author which ushered in me, what I have been enjoying all these days ever since - reading. It could be in 1973, at my age 23, that I read a book which more or less kick started this habit.It was not ' My experiments with truth' or ' Tale of Two cities' or 'War and Peace' but a simple fiction thriller -'Tiger By The Tail'. Yes, it was James Hadley Chase which took me to the world of  reading though not necessarily limited to just one of his books !!

Childhood days...
From the days of childhood I can remember, my appa (father) used to subscribe to one English newspaper and one in our local vernacular Malayalam in the house . Mostly it was Indian Express and Malayala Manorama respectively, of course both Indian. Among the periodicals he selected Mathrubhumi and Readers Digest which came all the way from UK till  they started printing in India. All these were regular in the house plus whenever possible he used to bring Blitz , Illustrated Weekly of India and at times books from book stalls.My appa and amma(mother) were serious readers and that could be the reason they kept out themselves reading fictions and novels. Appa is no more but amma is a reasonable ardent reader even today at the age of 88. Appa was working with Shell Oil and while he was on duty on board of the overseas oil tankers berthed at Kochi for off loading the fuel- may be once in a month- one thing he is sure to bring home is a load of magazines and other periodicals published from abroad. Thus I had the privilage of getting exposed to a lot of known American and European print materials at my young age. Good House Keeping,Time, Newsweek,Life... the list can be long.

My parents used to encourage us  children to reading, may be to inculcate such habit in us at young age .But my interest was limited to sports, cartoons, films while in the school. In the foreign periodicals brought to house  my interest was confined to colourful ( it was black and white mostly in India those days) photos of automobiles, ads and well decorated cooked dishes ! For this reason 'Life' was my favourite !! I was interested in reading comics and there was a series called 'Classics Illustrated' which were mostly shared from a friend in St Alberts School. But I was never a serious reader of anything including my text books until I graduated!

James Hadley Chase comes in..
For some strange reason- it could be because of the family environments or genes in me-  I started reading once I crossed 23. Initially I was focused to fiction, novels and then to periodicals. It was at that time that I ran into James Hadley Chase. I cant remember who suggested this author to me but my first read of his books - 'Tiger By The Tail' took me to new areas of blissful enjoyment. I might have finished the book in one sitting within 5 or 6 hours , as they call it 'one-sitting-page-turner'! Soon I became a regular visitor to Paico , the best and only book shop for English paperbacks those days in Kochi. Before long I became a member of Kochi Public Library which was held till I went to Doha at my age 34.(I was a member of British Council Library in Doha thereafter till our children crossed their early teens and internet came to my world)

 Within a short span since 1973 I could read almost 50 or so books written by him when I drifted myself to other similar authors of fame in fiction those days- Harold Robbins, Frederic Forsyth, Arthur Haley, Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon,...Perry Mason series......Indian fiction writers in English were less those days but I loved all types of creations of Khushwant Singh all along, .........I used to read Malayalam novels as well those days but most of them were emotional tragedies pivoted on social themes which was not my taste. For some strange unknown reason  I might have stopped reading fiction, thrillers and novels by the age of 31 and moved to serious reading which I could enjoy.....biographies, autobiographies, geography,travelogues,science, history, management....even engineering books which once I detested to read while in the campus!!!

In spite I was racing against time always officially in Doha,there was not a single professional periodical that came to Al Balagh which I have not at least glanced through when I was the CEO for 21 years. Online internet was handy for me when it came in existence. I used to spend 10 minutes every 3 hours or so while in office to read something not official in print or online. Reading was like oxygen to my professional and otherwise life style. No doubt I benefited a lot out of this habit other than just enjoyment.

His style of writing...
James Haley Chase has published 90 odd books.All his works are crime thrillers but the background, characters,locales varied. Very titles of his books were different and attracted anyone's attention.'Hit Them Where It hurts','My Laugh Comes Last', 'The Vulture Is A Patient Bird', 'I Will Get You For This' are few which I remember now in that respect.I think he also had a moral to be delivered to the reader while creating his characters and concluding his story each time- crime and lust do not pay. I used to enjoy his language and the way he takes the reader along with him each time. I used to doze off reading my text books in the night- if at all I venture for that- while in the school and college but when I read Chase and others happily till I finish, mostly in the wee hours !

He wrote his first thriller-No Orchids for Miss Blandish in 1939 which was a hit those days..I have seen the movie 'The Grissom Gang' also based on the book which was screened in  'Sridhar' movie house at Kochi maybe in 1974. 50 or so movies are made based on fictions of Chase. In fact screening of many films in 'Sridhar' including all time classics have influenced me a lot which acted like a catalyst to read the original works later.'Sridhar' was the first and only air conditioned theater those years in Kerala. Not only they screened famed English movies but also they used to intimate us a week prior details of films to be screened by sending home a post card which was a free service .In hindsight I would say the Manager of the movie house in early nineteen seventies was pretty smart. I dont know how many movie houses in the world did this exercise those years!!!

James Hadley Chase was a pseudonym for his real name Rene Brabzon Raymond ,who had also used three more names. . Born in London but half of his locales are set in US. It seems he hardly lived in US but only made few visits.I never knew these facts when I was a fan of his.He has been at times criticized for bringing a lot of violence in his books which I can't agree. Again catchy covers of sexy girls were used on his paperbacks which did not have much sex contents.

I have not read any book of his with an Indian background although his father was a colonel in British Indian Army. These days I think his books are almost forgotten although I have observed his works are available to be sold with Amazon and others. It could be just a coincidence that my habit of reading started with him.Probably I would have done it with somebody else as well if not him, I am not sure. Thank you James for taking me to new heights of ecstasy in life which I enjoy to this day!

Photos;Courtesy Google



Writing about the end of own life, that too after knowing that it could happen any time is hard to write for anyone. I am not an exception. ...