Have you heard of Surender Mohan Pathak? Perhaps you've seen his name at Railway Station book stalls, the way I've been seeing since childhood. But here are ten things I hadn't known about him until a few months ago.
1. He writes about 4 novels a year. For each of these, he gets about 4 lakh rupees for the initial print run.
2. He's been writing since 1959. His first story, 57 Saal Purana Aadmi (The 57-year-old man), was published then. And his first novel, Operation Budapest, was published in 1969.
3. So far he's written 268 novels. The last was a murder mystery named Jaal, starring his popular press reporter character, Sunil Chakraborti. The book had the current economic downturn as a backdrop element.
4. The average print run of the first editions of his books is one lakh. That is, one lakh copies of each of his books are printed on first release.
5. Though Pathak had written about 50 books before he hit big time, his first claim to fame were translated versions of James Hadley Chase novels. Pathak's writing style - crisp, detail-oriented, and fast-paced - suited these books so well that other publishers began marketing their own versions of Chase in Hindi with his name on the cover as translator. Pathak took about 3 or 4 days to do each book during his free time in his office at a Telephone company.
6. Along with translating the Chase books, Pathak also translated Ian Fleming's James Bond books. Having done that, he wrote his own series of James Bond novels!
7. His 'Vimal' series of books, beginning in the 70s, was the first in Hindi pulp to feature a Sikh hero. The success of this series prompted many imitations, none of which did as well. Many fans consider this series, which has 38 books so far, as his best so far.
8. Pathak was the inventor of the word 'Company', as used to describe an underworld organization, in his Vimal series of books. So, the 'D Company' owes it's name to him.
9. Looking for a closure to the Vimal series, Pathak at one point killed off his wife to trigger a final confrontation. The public outcry at this was so huge that Pathak was forced to resurrect her. The method he used to do so was suggested by a fan in an impassioned letter to him - a double role. :)
10. Hindi pulp books get published on cheapo, thick, newsprint paper. Considering Pathak's popularity, his publisher, in 2008, decided to print his works on good quality white paper, with a higher price for the book. Popular opinion in the publishing industry was against this move since the market is deemed to be very price sensitive. However, Pathak's first book on white paper, Midnight Club , sold as well as if not better than the older versions. The plan now is to reprint the best of his work on white paper as collector's editions.
11. Yes, a bonus fact : In 2006, a young man named Sandeep Bhatnagar pretended to be a human bomb in order to loot a branch of UTI Bank. He was caught, and confessed that he'd picked up the plan from Zameer ka Qaidi, a book by Surender Mohan Pathak. "He probably hadn't read the whole book," Pathak told us(*) later, "Or he'd have known that the guy trying it gets caught in the book too."
(*) Who's us? Wait for the next post!