Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rajesh Kumar: Man of (more than) a thousand novels

(Detectives Beyond Borders is not an official site for Rajesh Kumar's novels; the photo is from emagaz.in)

Monday's post about Surender Mohan Pathak's The Sixty-Five Lakh Heist led to a nice note from Rakesh Khanna of Blaft Publications about a truly prolific author.

Rajesh Kumar is said to have written more than 1,500 short novels and 2,000 stories. Here are some snippets from an article about “the superstar of the Tamil pulp fiction industry”:
"The classic Tamil pulp novel runs between 100 pages and 150 pages and is printed on cheap paper as a monthly magazine. ... The flavours of this genre are uniformly sensational but otherwise eclectic. They can include the science-fiction thrillers—more fiction than science—of Kumar, the romances of Ramani Chandran, the detective knockabouts of Pattukottai Prabhakar and Suba, the religious tales of Indira Soundara Rajan and the social dramas of Pushpa Thangadorai.

“`But many authors have, of late, shifted to writing for films and television,' Kumar says. `Not me, though. I’m allergic to cinema, and I don’t want to move to Chennai. Plus, I find these movie producers highly immoral people.'”
And, perhaps most interesting:
"For those treading water financially, a teashop will even act as an informal lending library, charging Rs2 to take a book home for a day or two.

"It is heartening that people who cannot afford a Rs15 novel are still willing to put down Rs2 to read, and Kumar takes no little pride in that fact. `It was us writers who made sure that there were books hanging from shop ceilings instead of shampoo sachets,' he says. We led people to read, he preens ..."
Imagine that: Popular books at affordable prices in handy formats where readers can find them. Radical!

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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8 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

By golly, the Indians have reinvented the Original Paperback!

May 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reinvented it, or never left it behind. It makes one think about reading publics and how publishers and authors reach tmem -- or fail to reach them.

Certainly the numbers and the cheap paper associated with this Indian pulp fiction are reminiscent of popular fiction elsewhere. How the Indian versions differ, I don't know, but it will be interesting to find out.

May 19, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Fascinating article. The whole e-book revolution is supposed make it easier and cheaper to read novels, isn't it? The 100 to 150 pages, would be classified as a novella and it is almost impossible to get something that length published, unless your Stephen King of course

May 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Wait a minute--where am I? I thought I'd logged in to the Rajesh Kumar official fansite. But something feels horribly wrong...

May 20, 2010  
Blogger Sudarshan said...

In case you're interested in reading some of Rajesh Kumar's work in translation (and taking a look at the mind-blowing covers of his books), you could read "The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction", which is available in the US at http://www.amazon.com/Blaft-Anthology-Tamil-Pulp-Fiction/dp/8190605607/ or from www.blaft.com in India. It has two stories by Rajesh Kumar, along with other stories by 9 other popular Tamil pulp writers.

A translation of a short story by him is also online at http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?238647 .

May 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean:

The whole e-book revolution is supposed make it easier and cheaper to read novels, isn't it?

If one can afford an e-book, that is, or rather, if one can afford an e-book and the several generations of e-books that will make your first one impractical or onbsolete quickly.

The 100 to 150 pages, would be classified as a novella and it is almost impossible to get something that length published, unless your Stephen King of course

Ed McBain edited an interesting series of novellas a few years ago from authors including himself, Donalrd Westlake and Walter Mosley. They're available under the collective title "Transgressions."

May 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'm the guy who makes a blog post every day. Rajesh Kumar is the guy who writes a novel every day.

May 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sudarshan, thanks for the tips; I didn't know the anthology contained Rajesh Kumar's work. Thanks, too, for the link to the translated story. He writes much, but little is available to English-only readers.

May 20, 2010  

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