ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Screenwriter and director Mario Bolduc has been working in cinema and television for nearly two decades. The Kashmir Trap, his first novel featuring Max O’Brien, was published in French in 2005. Mario lives in Montreal, Quebec.
Originally published in French in 2004, The Kashmir Trap is my first crime novel, where I introduce Max O’Brien, a con artist with a "moral attitude". Two more novels would follow with the same character as a central figure. Despite his criminal background, Max is involved emotionally in his quest for truth. He is also a man who needs to come to terms with his past.
When I decided to write the opening novel of the series, I wanted Max to pursue his missions outside his usual environment (New York and Montreal) in order to increase tension and suspense.
But where to send him for his first adventure?
In the Eighties, I travelled to India. A long stopover in a journey around the world that had started a few months before. I arrived in New Delhi – from Bangkok – in the middle of the night. I managed to find a room in one of those cheap hotels around Connaught Place. We were in February, the city was cold. I was freezing…
I had been traveling in a few countries in Asia, I had met people from various nationalities and different cultures, but I was not ready for what I saw and experienced in India. The first days, I thought there was too much of everything: people, dirt, noise, confusion, etc. India was unique, but I was not ready for it!
I decided to reach Kashmir, up north, and visit Srinagar and the surrounding areas. I knew a little about the political situation, the region was relatively calm at the time, there was nothing to fear (for tourists at least). I travelled by train then by bus. From Jammu, because of heavy rains that had destroyed part of the road, I had to complete the journey by plane.
When I landed in Srinagar in the early evening, it was even colder than Delhi, it had been snowing the day before. The town was dark, badly lit, everyone was dressed in winter phirans (wool ponchos). Passerby hunched over small fires on street corners, trying to warm up; others carried kangri baskets (fire-pots) under their clothes. The smell of burned charcoal was everywhere. The place reminded me of a Bruegel painting.
I stayed in a houseboat elaborately decorated – a tourist must! One day, I followed a path in the mountains up to Gulmarg, where a ski station was (and still is) in operation. When I wrote The Kashmir Trap, I remembered the scenery: firs, pines and other conifers, mountains covered in snow, the winding road in the forest travelled by four-wheel drive vehicles.
Kashmir was one of the highlight of my travel around the world, that year. I never forgot the place and the days I spent there, in the middle of winter. Years later, when my Montreal publisher showed interest in my ideas about a crime novel with an international setting, I thought Kashmir would be the perfect location. It allowed me to write about India, a country I learned to love and had visited a few times since my initial tour.
Other reasons motivated my choice: Indian spirituality had made a strong impression on me, and I found the history of Kashmir quite tragic. Also, Hindu extremism was a subject not treated enough in the Western media. To set the novel in Kashmir gave me the opportunity to talk about all these aspects of the Indian world.
At the end of the millennium, the political situation had deteriorated in Kashmir, foreigners were warned about traveling in the area: in 1995, American and European tourists had been kidnapped and killed as they were trekking in the Himalayas.
In late December 2001, the conflict between India and Pakistan worsened. After Indian villages near the Line of Control were subjected to Pakistani artillery fire, there was mention of a possible nuclear retaliation from India. Thousands of villagers started to flee the area, many countries organized the departure of their own nationals.
From Montreal, I followed closely the situation in the media. I was sad to see this beautiful region and its inhabitants being caught in the fight between two nuclear powers. Fortunately, after a few weeks of high tension, the Indian and Pakistani authorities came to their senses.
When I started writing The Kashmir Trap, the crisis had been over for just a few months. In the novel, following the time frame of the events, I sent Max on the same route I had taken in the Eighties. In Delhi, he found a room in the same hotel I stayed when I first arrived in India; in Srinagar, he walked on the same streets. Without neglecting his investigation, I made him express my own feelings and impressions, hoping that readers would not only enjoy the fictional story but also learn about this fascinating region and India in general.
That’s how The Kashmir Trap was conceived and written…
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