Who is Akira Yamashita?

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Meeting Vasudev Murthy, the author of ‘Sherlock Holmes in Japan’, at the Urban Solace book club meet was an interesting experience simply because Vasudev has so many interests of his own: violin, teaching, consulting, animal rights, yoga, and travelling (to quote from his twitter handle – @dracula99.) He’s called his blog (http://vmurthy.blogspot.in/), ‘Music Literature Weird Stuff’. Again – interestingJ

So what prompted Vasudev Murthy from Bangalore to assume the Japanese identity of Akira Yamashita to write ‘Sherlock Holmes in Japan’? Vasudev explains that eight years ago he assumed the persona of Akira, which to him is clearly more than a pseudonym. He says the concept of writing as “someone he was not” interested him deeply. He began thinking like Akira, rather than as Vasudev. The blurb in his novel says “Akira Yamashita is an elderly Japanese expatriate from Osaka living in Bangalore. He runs the elite Nippon Star Academy…..his book “sambhar for the Indian soul” was on the bestseller list for years. He hopes to marry an Indian woman who excels in the preparation of that exotic Indian dish and invites applications”.

Quite a creative avatar for Vasudev, who by the way, is very much married. How do I know? I’ve met his lovely wife, who I heard is a tarot card reader.

Vasudev says he enjoyed writing the book, and it made sense for him to envision Sherlock Holmes in Japan rather than in any other place due to his own fascination with Japanese culture. His deep interest in Japanese literature, the fact that the first company he worked with was Japanese, his knowledge of spoken Japanese, and a visit to Japan made Japan the ideal place to set his story. Vasudev says he arrived at the title of the story before he came up with the plot.

The book came about when he wrote the first three chapters and sent it to Harper Collins and hallelujah! they accepted it. To quote Vasudev “I wrote the rest of the book in six weeks in a state of panic”. He says he had three or four key points or milestones in the story and spun the rest around it. For example, he says he simply had to bring in Angkor Wat in the book when he visited the place.

When asked how many of the different avatars in this book had an essence of the author, Vasudev admitted that writers, essentially, talk about themselves. He asserts that every book is a reflection of the author and it’s true with him, too. He adds that he has structured the story in such a way that several of the characters got to tell their version of the story in first person. 

When told that he has been able to retain the style and language of Arthur Conan Doyle, he says he is happy if that has been achieved, and it was probably due to his avid reading of the author’s works, which helped him imbibe the style. However, he is happy to have “smuggled in” his pet themes of vegetarianism, music, and animal rights into the book.

He heaps praise on his editors and says there were some sections of the manuscript that did not come into the book and he was happy to accept the editorial input because he feels it helped create a better book.  When asked about the numerous themes in his book, he says he was “lucky in that the Yakuza is a ready-made theme” and that “it was just a matter of connecting the dots”.  He sure makes it sound easy, but anyone who reads this book will see that a lot of themes have gone into it.

He says he has a lot of different projects cooking with different publishers and he might write a book on “mindless humor” inspired by “the complete chaos and anarchy” that he witnessed at a lit fest recently. Vasudev comes across as a multi-faceted, grounded, and versatile individual with a great sense of humor and all you Sherlock Holmes fans can order his book here: http://www.flipkart.com/sherlock-holmes-japan/p/itmdkv85gnu4zzdd?pid=9789350296691

Happy Reading!

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