The Burning Tide
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"Mann delivers panoramic tours through Indian history and atmosphere, highlighted by sensually adept mistresses and intriguing insider lore..." - U.S. Publishers Weekly. See more reviews
Sansi investigates the horrific deaths of hundreds of pilgrims after a chemical spill into the River Ganges at the holy city of Varanasi. In the pursuit of justice he must confront the most powerful figures in a booming and newly resurgent India whose corrupt influence reaches to the highest levels of government.
The Burning Tide cost me a lot of sleep. I broke my personal insomnia record and at one stretch went 17 days without sleep while writing it. But it really had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the American publishing industry. It was the third in a four book deal with Random House and I decided to set it against the backdrop of the newly emerging Indian economic powerhouse. After centuries of colonization and half a century as an economic basket case something phenomenal was underway - a middle class of 350 million was emerging. That's equal to the entire population of the European Common Market. With financial clout came confidence. India was about to become a player on the world stage.
Against this background I saw two strong themes for a new Sansi murder mystery; the emergence of Indian entrepreneurs who'd come out on top in one of the toughest places in the world to do business - to whom western economies looked like easy pickings. And pollution. India is one of the most environmentally degraded countries on earth. Just look at the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal when a gas leak killed 2,500 people overnight and an estimated 8,000 more in the weeks that followed. Not only were safety standards at the plant criminally low because Indian officials were bought off by Union Carbide, compensation to families of the victims was delayed for decades due to misappropriation of funds by corrupt government officials.
The title, 'The Burning Tide' suggested itself because of the great steps at Varanasi where Hindus cremate their dead before casting the ashes into the River Ganges. It also refers to the pollution of the river, which is used by thousands of industries along its banks as an outlet for all manner of untreated industrial effluents, chemicals and acids. The book opens with an horrific incident involving hundreds of pilgrims bathing in their sacred river and leads Sansi to a trail of murder and intrigue that winds through the highest levels of business and government.
Soon after delivering the manuscript to my editor, Dan Zitin, at Random House I was thrust into a separate drama of my own. Dan called to tell me he'd been fired. Which shook me because he was an award winning editor with a long and successful career in publishing. It turned out it was the beginning of a bloodletting by New York publishers who cut hundreds of editors and mid-list authors loose without a word of warning or apology. It was the demise of a 100 year tradition of building authors up over time then seeing their backlist swept up in a breakout bestseller. Book publishers were 'going Hollywood.' Which meant more bucks chasing fewer books, looking for blockbusters only. Ironically, it had just the opposite effect.
A few weeks after Dan's call Random House stopped taking my agent's calls. Which meant The Burning Tide, The Ganja Coast and Season Of The Monsoon had also been orphaned. A temporary editor took over The Burning Tide and processed it out and that was that. No support, no promotion, no review copies, no nothing. Under the contract I had with Random House I was supposed to deliver a fourth book; The Jackal Club. My agent told me if I wanted to enforce the contract I'd have to spend a small fortune in a Manhattan courtroom and see how it went.
I ended up taking a 10 year hiatus from authorship and instead started 'The York Independent,' a weekly newspaper in York, Maine. Which led me to another book, 'The House Of False Affections,' which you can read about on the 'Latest' page.
I came back to authorship because I had a string of books inside me burning to get out – and because Amazon and Kindle meant authors could go straight to the readers. Then my Australian publishers, Pan-Macmillan, made an offer to put out my Sansi series on their e-book platform, Momentum, via Kindle, Nook, Amazon, iBookstore, Google eBooks, Kobo, Booki.sh etc.
Suddenly I'm free to write again. And there will be another Sansi book. The Jackal Club will finally see the light of day. Which makes me happy - and hopefully the readers who took to Sansi, Annie, Pramila and Joint Commissioner Jatkar. They're great characters with a lot more life in them. And I've been itching to take Sansi back to Crime Branch.
In the meantime you can read The Burning Tide, the book that was thrown away but refused to die. I hope you'll agree it was worth saving.