The life of a crime reporter is no less than a thriller. They spend their days in and around power corridors, often a few doors away from the best and the worst of humans. A ping on their phone could be a scoop about a top cop’s transfer or terrifying pictures of a murder victim they must find more about in mere minutes. It’s a high-paced world with very few opportunities to write long-form profiles and features.
After being a crime reporter for over a decade, Mohamed Thaver decided to pen together his experiences, funnelling them into a fictional police procedural — In Plain Sight — to fuel his desire to paint a larger canvas.
“This is definitely different from everyday reportage. I had wanted to write a book for a while and now that’s finally out, there is a sense of happiness and relief that the book is finally out. However, at the same time, I am anxious to hear what people may have got to say about it”, says Thaver.
The book is written from the perspective of Rohan, a rookie reporter. This is why much of In Plain Sight is, in fact, put together from Thaver’s own experiences. The book is set in the terrifyingly surreal world of crime and revolves around brutal crimes against minors in the maximum city.
“For stories, you go to various police premises and there is so much that you can see happening — there is so much colour! You see arrested persons, how cops go about an investigation, how they are in real life and the politics at play. When you meet a cop, you don’t just talk to them about cases, you discuss a range of issues. You get a good vantage point to see how the force functions,” Thaver tells us, talking about the conception of his book.
For Thaver, it was this colour that he couldn’t quite fit into the constraints of the 250-words copies he types up day in day out. “Over the years, I realised how much more interesting things were as compared to anything I had read in a crime fiction book. It nudged me towards writing a police procedural,” he adds.
As a genre, crime fiction is quite tricky — there are some set tropes that are often followed, aspects one may never find happening in real life. How then, does a reporter who knows the system, almost as good as someone in khaki, indulge in writing fiction without betraying their journalistic instincts?
When asked, Thaver tells us, “A majority of what I have written is based on the things that I have seen happening in real life. There are a few things that I have imagined and fictionalised but that too comes from a place of having seen it somewhere.”
“At the end of the day, I think a book should engage people. I wanted to write a book that does not fall into the common categories. As a genre, I wanted to see the extent to which it could be stretched. I have tried to bring out stuff that I have seen on the ground but never really read— I think it gives a sense of originality to the book,” he adds.
With In Plain Sight, Thaver wanted to depict the complexities of real-world policing and investigations. He wanted cops to come across as more than just single-dimension characters.
To do so, he wrote from memory. About 70 per cent of the profiles created by Thaver are cops he has met, admired and or hated. In some cases, he has merged personalities of about three-four cops. In other instances, he has used characteristic of regular citizens to add colour to the cops he was trying to bring alive on paper.
Though not a central theme in the book, Thaver has inserted his experiences as a Muslim journalist to add value and authenticity to his narrative. People are complex creatures with inherent biases and cops are no different — from casual communal jibes to sexism within the force — there is a lot that has been used by Thaver to build the narrative of In Plain Sight. He has also tried to weave in the issues and realities of cops and their lives.