We’re thrilled to have here today Thalassery Vatoot Mohammad Koya from Vasudev Murthy’s new thriller, Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Timbuktu. Mr. Koya is a 30 year old Spice Merchant living in Thallasery, on the Malabar Coast, India
It is a pleasure to have Mr. Koya with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Mr. Koya Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
I must say that the story is complex. My involvement was completely unexpected and I suddenly found myself first in Morocco and then in Timbuktu within weeks of my father’s death. I must remind you that I was just a small-time merchant, barely literate, with no idea that I was the descendant of the great traveler, Ibn Batuta. Mr. Murthy takes me from humble beginnings to becoming the heir of an astonishing story. I believe he did justice to my character on at least two dimensions. First, from a quiet and bewildered man to an authoritative leader of men, a metamorphosis caused by events. Second, he did not paint me as a villain, which I was not, and indeed, understood that I had developed a new set of values towards the end of the story. I am not a hero, but a gentleman caught in peculiar circumstances being forced to battle with Sherlock Holmes.
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
Yes, he did a good job, and did not amplify any trait. I am human and humble, uncomfortable in the knowledge that I have a magnificent lineage. A man spends many years doing the very same things day after day. An accidental discovery forced me to travel and encounter strange people and cultures quite alien to mine. I may not be a very educated man but Mr. Murthy gave me a layer of wisdom, fairness and politeness. I am pleased.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
Courage, though you might say that we often discover ourselves only when we are forced into situations that demand the uncovering of something lying within. For a man who could barely speak Arabic and only a little English, it took courage to set off on a voyage to my ancestor’s tomb and related mysteries. Then imagine taking charge of the ferocious and somewhat crooked Guardians of the Letter, meeting the custodians of the Sankore Mosque, and leading a charge across the African continent. I never knew I had that in me.
None really. In the book, I am far from perfect, but do not suffer from extreme traits either. Yes, I co-existed for a long while with men who were fanatically loyal to my ancestor but were otherwise criminals. But that is no reflection of me.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
At this time, there is no one who can play my part with conviction.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
No, not me. But there is a moving love story in the book.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
At about the time we lost Holmes and Watson at Timbuktu. I wondered if this chase was really worth it. But I did not say anything to anyone then. Leaders cannot afford to appear unconfident.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
There is a Catholic Priest in the story who has several layers. Sherlock Holmes told me about him towards the end and I too disapproved of his duplicity.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
The ending was ethical in every sense of the world. Some secrets ought not to be aired, even if it frustrates the reader. Dr Watson has done a good job in his allusions but no reader can act on the hints (and even the map, so generously provided) and achieve what he thinks he will get.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?
Men and women are the same everywhere. They may speak different languages and have different cultural contexts but human traits are universal, both good and bad. I’m glad that the author is writing about different cultures (Japan first and Timbuktu now). The book in which I was featured involved languages, history and more. The center of the world is not London. Perhaps there is no center of the world. I hope to see another such book. If you feature me, do explain to the reader that often times, people are sucked into situations without their explicit understanding. Let that moderate your views on the conduct of everyone, including Mr. Moriarty. Could he actually be a good man?
Thank you for this interview, Mr. Koya. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
Thank you. No, I do not wish to leave the Malabar Coast again. The world is too dangerous. Even for the descendant of the great traveler Ibn Batuta. Visit me and take home some cinnamon.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vasudev was born in Delhi and has meandered around the world with lengthy stopovers in Tallahassee and Dallas. His books span a variety of interests, from Indian classical music to crime fiction, humor, and business management. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India where he runs a consulting firm.