Sunday 2 January 2022


Author, Tom Vater stops by to answer a few questions about his latest book, Kolkata Noir.

Your latest offering, Kolkata Noir has recently dropped. Can you sell it to new or old

readers in 50 words or under?

Kolkata Noir is a riveting crime fiction cycle set in the past, the present and the future that

introduces readers to one of the world’s greatest cities and to Becker, a British traveler and

Madhu, a female cop, who embark on a journey into the dark heart of the West Bengal capital.

It's a dip into the past, the present and the future. Was there one spark or germ of

imagination that got you up and running with this one?

I know Kolkata from back when it was still called Calcutta, so that got me interested in writing

about the city over a long period of time. Projecting into the future, I realized, is a great way to

talk about the present – once flooding and climate change have an effect on Kolkata in about 20

years, many of the challenges facing the city now will become acute.

Is it a different kind of process writing pieces which occur in different settings time-wise?

No, I found that all to be quite organic as I was so invested in the city in general when I wrote

Kolkata Noir. The narrative arc hinges on the relationship between the two main protagonists

over a 40 year period. We see Becker and Madhurima grow, professionally and personally, yet

they remain trapped by the forces of history, their professions and respective backgrounds.

Kolkata Noir is really an epic love story.

Was it a book conceived in lockdown, or did its creation pre-date the madness of the

COVID/post-COVID world?

I was selected as artist in residence by the Goethe Institut for the Indo-European Art Residency

Kolkata in 2019, so the book was written and conceived before Covid19 came into play. I lived

in Kolkata for 10 weeks, was out every night exploring the city and wrote during the day. To be

so close to my subject was an incredible opportunity.

How has the pandemic impacted on you and yours? Hopefully you have all been safe?

Safe, yes. I live in Thailand where vaccine availability has been wanting and slow. It certainly

affected my career as a freelance writer/journalist as I could no longer travel to countries in the

region for assignments. But on the plus side, there are few conspiracy vaccine deniers in


Did lockdown have any discernible effect on your creativity?

Perhaps, in a positive way. I had more time on my hands as my writing day-job suffered, so I

sat down and wrote another novel, now with my agent. The Green Panthers is a gripping,

dystopian eco thriller and will hopefully find a publisher in the not too distant future.

Regarding Kolkata Noir, how long did it take from the first word to last to complete?

It took me 10 weeks to write the first draft in Kolkata. But then I spent months editing back

home. By that time, Covid 19 had kicked in, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

Is it the same book you anticipated when setting out, or is it markedly different?

I anticipated nothing with this book. I knew I would have time to write in a city I love. I had no clear ideas where I wanted to take the story. That all came together through my on-the-ground, mostly nocturnal research in Kolkata. It was a mad process in the sense that, I was researching and writing at the same time, really a journalistic technique, but as I knew that time was short and valuable, I worked like that. I don’t think I slept a great deal while in Kolkata. I was mesmerized, it is a beautiful, fascinating city with an underbelly so dark and huge, it’s hard to grasp. And I had very good access, though a Bengali writer, Aurko Maitra, to all corners of the city. A perfect set-up for writing, and a rare privilege. 

I believe it's your fifth fiction book. Is it your best work?

All my novels have their strengths and my first novel The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, recently

republished, has made a comeback of sorts with some decent sales. But yes, Kolkata Noir is my

best work to date and the first time I managed to weave a love story into a crime fiction.

Do you have a favourite of the five? Which would you press into a new reader's hands


Kolkata Noir, for sure. It’s fresh, it’s where my writing head is at and it was borne of a situation,

a moment in time that was special and can never be recaptured. I was in good form, I had time

and resources to do and write what I wanted and I maxed out every moment to get the best

possible text. It’s an ode to a great city and to the enduring nature of affection.

I believe since we last chatted (2018), you’ve called time on Crime Wave Press. Was that a

difficult decision? Had you achieved everything you set out to do with the publishing


What's next for you?

Crime Wave Press no longer paid for itself, never mind generated money for us. We published

35 books over ten years and sales were flagging as more and more ebooks flooded the market. It

got more difficult to raise our voice over the general din of publications. We’re proud of what we

achieved – we sold tens of thousands of (mostly digital) books, we toured literary festivals with

our authors, we sold a couple of film options and foreign language rights and we met a lot of

great, talented authors and wonderful readers. So, it was a bitter-sweet decision to let go but it

has definitely freed me up to write more fiction. Watch this space.

And thank you, Col, for asking some great questions and letting me ramble.



What’s your favourite vegetable?


When did you last have a fist fight?

In school. I broke a fellow student’s nose after he threw my bag out of the class room window. I

recently reconnected with the guy and I apologized to him, almost 40 years after the fight.

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Nope, but I have run from a few….

Do you have any tattoos?

Yes, I have about 25 tattoos, most on my legs, many done by hand, all of them street tattoos. One of them reads ‘Read Books!’.

What was your first pet’s name?

I never had pets except some small aquarium fish. For a while I was looking after a Bangkok

street dog called Didi, but she ran away after getting freaked out by fireworks during Chinese

New Year.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

When I was a kid, I once had to eat ox tongue soup and that caused a life long trauma. on my

travels around Asia, I encountered unusual culinary horrors – bats (absolute low point, in Laos),

dogs, crocodiles, locusts, bamboo larvae, spiders, boiled eggs containing ready to hatch birds

(called Balut in the Philippines)…never managed a scorpion.

Do you have any irrational fears?

Hm, I suppose we all have periodic anxieties or self-confidence issues. Perhaps, as a writer, I

have a certain degree of self-loathing for not working fast enough, not being focused enough etc.

But I generally wake up in the mornings looking forward to the day and I live very much in the

present, so fears of mortality are contained.

What’s your favourite vacation destination?

That changes all the time – Kolkata, Marseille and London (though the latter less since Brexit)

are my favorite cities. I love visiting India, it gives and takes generously.

When did you last tell a lie?

Just now, to myself. That I will be more disciplined about my health, from today.


Many thanks to Tom for his time. 

You can find out more about him and his books at the following links

Kolkata Noir:
The Devil's Road to Kathmandu:
The Cambodian Book of the Dead:
The Man with the Golden Mind:
The Monsoon Ghost Image:

New non-fiction:
Very Bangkok -
Eco Share in PNG:
Charles Sobhraj/serial killer:

Don't forget to check out Kolkata Noir

Becker is a British traveler in trouble. Madhurima is a rising star police officer. In these three explosive tales, the two join forces to investigate the city’s crooked high society.

On the way, they take on deluded would-be messiahs in search of Mother Teresa’s stolen millions, encounter fanatics, circus freaks and cannibals, fall in and out of love and pay homage to one of the world’s most beautiful and toughest cities.

Amidst passion, murder and mayhem, is there room for two lovers driven by justice and compassion?

Tom Vater's 'Kolkata Noir' is a riveting crime fiction cycle of three novellas set in the past, the present and the future.


  1. Thanks, both, for a really interesting interview! Covid has impacted all of us to one or another extend, and that includes writing, so it was especially interesting to hear how it played into your writing. Wishing you much success.

    1. Thanks Margot. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview with Tom. he has a lot of interesting things to say.

  2. I have one book by this author, but haven't read it yet. Sounds familiar, right?

    The book is The Cambodian Book of the Dead and it has skulls on cover. I would like to get to that book this year but who knows how my reading will go this year.

    1. I know that feeling very well.

      I think I have the same book from Vater on my own TBR pile Tracy. I'm still deciding on whether to make a reading plan for 2022 which I know will inevitably fail.