In Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho — which I definitely recommend, but only if you have a taste for delightfully cheeky detours in your rip-tear-kill supernatural blood-fests — there’s this little bit that is a perfect embodiment of attention to detail, excellent research, an eye for trivia, and a handy reference library of ethnic acquaintances 🙂
Tista Ghosh, the Jazz Section’s welfare officer… had the kind of precision-tooled middle-class accent that only comes from being taught English as a Second Language in the cradle.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “What’s a nice desi girl like me doing in the jazz scene?”. Actually I was thinking where the hell she’d got that leather jacket and should she, for religious reasons, be wearing a leather jacket in the first place.
The jacket had a line of crudely made badges down the left-hand lapel, the type you could stamp out with a hand press. I surreptitiously read them while Ms. Ghosh expounded upon the innovative jazz scene that flourished in India after the war. “My parents were deeply into jazz,” she said. “They were from Calcutta and there was this famous club called Trinca’s on Park Street…. It’s all changed now but there used to be this great jazz scene, that’s where they met.”
Ms. Ghosh was just telling me about the time Duke Ellington played at the Winter Palace—the hotel in Calcutta, not the birthplace of the Russian revolution—when I decided that it was time to put the conversation back on track.
I did have to think for a minute before I understood why a leather jacket might be against her religion, but foreigners are allowed these little mistakes. Especially ones who do their homework so exceptionally well.
[What does it say of me, though, that I’m delighted to see an accurate slice of my city’s history in an English writer’s book? Is it retroactive post-col. pride in a sahib’s praise? Plain old public spiritedness? A oneness with the culturally-constructed soul if the city? Oh, the plights of the college-educated mind. Back to mystical murders]