07 July 2014

Review and Guest Post: The Last Taxi Ride by A.X. Ahmad (The Benefits of Eavesdropping)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManLast year I introduced you to A. X. Ahmad and his debut literary thriller, The Caretaker, about Ranjit Singh, an India immigrant, adapting to life in America while working off-season on Martha's Vineyard.

Ahad's second novel, The Last Taxi Ride, released on June 24, continues the story of the ex-Indian Army captain. Still struggling to find his place in the United States, Ranjit Singh has moved to New York City, joining the ranks of Indian cabbies. The Big Apple is quite the change from New England, but Singh has made friends, discovered where to eat good Indian food, and has adjusted to city life. Unfortunately, trouble seems to find Singh wherever he goes.

When the beaten body of Bollywood star Shabana Shah is discovered in her apartment, police find Singh's fingerprints all over the murder weapon, and the building's surveillance cameras caught him leaving the lobby. With just ten days until his arraignment, Singh must rely on his military training, his knowledge of the city's cab driver culture, and his friends' help to prove his innocence.

The Last Taxi Ride is an exciting thriller starring a great character that shows us a side of New York that many of us are unfamiliar with. This multilayered novel is more than a mystery though; it's also an immigrant story. Ranjit Singh is still between worlds, having moved on from India but not yet settled in America. This murder mystery-thriller combined with Singh's personal story makes The Last Taxi Ride a don't-miss summer read.

In what I hope will be a continuing tradition for all of his novels, I want to welcome back author A. X. Ahmad to Beth Fish Reads. I'm always curious about how authors get their ideas for their novels, so I'm thrilled that Amin chose that topic for today's guest post. I love that his inspiration has a foodie tie in as well.

The Benefits of Eavesdropping

One day at an Indian restaurant in Midtown Manahattan.

About five years ago, I was sitting at a window seat in Curry in A Hurry, eating kebabs and naan bread, and eavesdropping on two Indian cabbies sitting behind me.

“It was her, I’m telling you,” one was saying to the other.

“Don’t be stupid,” the other replied. “What is she doing in New York? She lives in Mumbai.”

“No, it was her, I’m sure.”

“How can you be sure? Did you see her face?”

“No, she was wearing big sunglasses.”

“So how can you be sure it was her?”

This conversation went on and on.

Intrigued, I kept listening, and soon I figured they were talking about the Bollywood Indian actress Shabana Azmi. She had once upon a time been a star, and now had been eclipsed by a younger generations of actresses.

One cabbie kept insisting that Shabana Azmi had actually been in his cab, and the other one wouldn’t believe it. They kept arguing, and never reached a conclusion, but that moment stayed with me: I became intrigued by the idea of a Bollywood star who is now living in New York, and taking cabs incognito all over town.

And I also realized that a cabbie would be a great character in a crime novel.

So I started taking cabs wherever I went in New York, and talking to the Indian drivers. I heard a lot of stories about what happens in the backseats of cabs—couples arguing, businessmen discussing million dollar deals, and of course, the occasional celebrity, hidden behind sunglasses and a baseball hat. I also started hanging around cab driver cafes in New York, and talking to the cabbies. I drank a lot of chai, ate a lot of rice and tandoori chicken, and heard a lot of stories.

Soon I began to write about an Indian cabbie in NYC who gives a ride to a has-been Bollywood actress and then is accused of her murder. From this beginning I spun out an entire novel, populated with characters based on the cab drivers I had met. It’s now a book called The Last Taxi Ride.

And to think it all started because I had a hankering for Indian food!
I too can't resist listening in on conversations when I'm in cafes, waiting in lines, or on public transportation. What a great way to find inspiration for a story. Thanks so much Amin for stopping by today. I'm not a fiction writer, but I am a cook, and I think you've inspired me to make a curry. (The photo is of a curry soup I made a few months ago.)

Although The Last Taxi Ride is the second Ranjit Singh novel, it works well as a standalone. But why miss out on Singh's first adventure? Ahmad is currently working on a third Singh book, which will put the ex-army captain in a completely different American environment.

Finally, don't miss this fun short film about how the death of Bollywood star Shabana Shah affected one budding New York reporter.

Published by Minotaur, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781250016867
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 7/7/14, 8:36 AM  

I'll admit to eavesdropping to conversations like that as well but I'm not talented enough to make a story out of what I hear. This sounds like another winner from Ahmad.

Daryl 7/7/14, 8:54 AM  

i think i need to read these .. thanks!

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/7/14, 4:02 PM  

What a terrific post, I'm going to look for this series, it sounds fantastic.

Unknown 7/7/14, 8:17 PM  

I'm fascinated by eavesdropping, in a fun kind of way. This book sounds good, and who know what you could create from an overheard conversation.

Vicki 7/8/14, 7:05 PM  

What an interesting way of getting the idea for his book!

Sometimes people are so loud that you can't help but hear them. Sometimes their conversations are funny, but sometimes they're hard to listen to. I don't like hearing arguing or someone just being mean.

Laurie C 7/27/14, 11:09 AM  

I'm just catching up on your past posts, and I can't believe I almost missed this one! I completely didn't realize that the next book after The Caretaker was out! I listened to the audio edition of The Caretaker and really enjoyed it.
Great guest post, too! I love to eavesdrop when I get the chance!

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