Meet the author: Imran Mahmood
September 25th 2021
Sometimes, a crime writer dreams up a concept so brilliant, so flawless, that the whodunit community simply have to take off their hat and bow down to the writer. No one can forget reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for the first time and finding themselves floored – in fact, let's be honest, incredibly annoyed – by the ingenuity of the plot.
The cleverness of the plot from Imran Mahmood in I Know What I Saw brings to mind such delicious moments. The concept of the story is brilliant, delving deep into question of psychology and the stories we tell ourselves – and live by. Added to that, the social commentary so delicately drawn and observed…it’s a simply brilliant read.
We caught up with the author to find out more.
Dear Love My Read-ers!
Thank you for choosing I Know What I Saw. Some of my favourite authors and books have been chosen in the past and I am thrilled to be in such great company.
I Know What I Saw is my second book and has just been optioned for TV. It is the story of a once wealthy Cambridge graduate who finds himself homeless on the streets of London. One night he witnesses a murder and his whole life changes.
The book is a murder-mystery that sounds impossible to square. Beyond that however, it is a story about the fragile nature of the human condition. It seemed to me that sometimes we hang onto our lives by threads and the drop beneath is long and dark. I have always wondered how fine the line was between success and despair and what would cut the threads and how far we would fall if they were cut. I have also always asked whether the value of a person can be truly separated from the standards set by societal metrics and I attempt to explore that question. It’s also a book about memory and at its true heart it is a book about love and loss.
The story was inspired by a fateful meeting I had as a teenager with a man at my local library. He was everything I had been taught to distrust. He was homeless. His clothes were ragged and his hair matted and dirty. But he surprised me by offering me set of French literature books at a knock-down price. I soon found out that he had been to Oxford as a young man. He had been successful and wealthy. And I was mesmerised by what I saw as the gap between the expectations I had for him from those few facts and the reality of what he had chosen for his life and what life had chosen for him.
I love writing about murders (despite having to deal with so many of them in my day job as a criminal barrister!) and I hope you enjoy reading about this one.
Thank you for reading!
What type of person do you hope reads your book?
I love readers of all kinds. I've never been someone that separates books too strictly into genres because I think if I did that I might miss some really unexpected gems. I read a book recently that was described as a horror (which isn’t my favourite kind of book) but it turned out to be a beautiful and moving book about survival. I might have missed out if I had automatically ruled it out. So, to answer the question – anyone that loves to read!
What's the most unexpected thing you learnt while writing the book?
I learned that some people who were livin
g on the streets found that shelters and other ostensibly ‘safe’ places were in fact much more dangerous than spaces on the street. The people I spoke to told me that some shelters were filled with drug-users and violent residents who would intimidate and steal in order to fuel their addictions. And for that reason, many people preferred the relative safety of the street compared with shelters. Most people spoke of being caught in a system where they fell between two stools. Some worked in full-time jobs but couldn’t afford private accommodation but were then told by the councils that they weren’t eligible for local authority housing. What do people in that situation do?
What's your favourite first line in literature?
This changes every day! My current favourite is from my mate Abir Mukherjee from his novel A Necessary Evil
‘It’s not often you see a man with a diamond in his beard.’
Is there one book you wished you'd written? Why?
All the books that I’d wished I’d written are books I could never have written. But if I had the skill, I wish I had written The Life of Pi. Martel writes this book in a way that is at the same time beautifully evocative and horrific. It was a deserved Booker winner but unlike many Booker books was completely accessible. A book that can be enjoyed on so many levels whether as a piece of entertainment or as a work of philosophy.
What are you working on next?
I am working on Novel 3. It is the story of a woman who is accused of a murder that she claims that she did not commit. As well as being a novel about murder it is also a story about free-will. Do we really make any truly free choices?
There is a children’s play park nearby. The gates are shut but unlocked and they push open easily with a gentle squeak. Of course, at this time of night it’s deserted, and I know that I can sleep here until light. Time as it ticks on a watch is not as useful to me as how the light looks when it waxes or wanes. Daylight’s length is my clock, just as once it was for everyone. I think about earlier today, about Amit and the fruit now warm in my pockets. That at seventeen years old he thinks about me at all is a surprise. I’ve known him a summer, an autumn and now most of a winter. And now he brings me oranges when most people bring nothing but chaos and dirt.
The ground here is covered in woodchips, a decent mattress under the slide where it is dry, shaded from the elements by the wide tin slope. Before, when I knew too much about numbers and nothing about living, I tried to sleep in the tunnel, to use its seclusion, but the curve is death to sleep. Instead I crouch under the slide and tear out sheets of newspaper, rolling them into apple-sized balls. I can’t read the financial pages any more so the pink ones are the first to go. Each one is forced into the gaps in my coat sleeves, the wool inflating until I am like the Hulk. And then I do the same to the legs of my jeans. In no time air is trapped in pockets and my body warms – the paper clings on to the heat. The remaining balls I arrange into the carrier bag from Amit’s oranges, and convert into a pillow. I lay the oranges by my head because the scent of them comforts me.
From here all I can see in the blue moonlight is the dulled metal underside of the slide. The position of it, sloping towards me upside down, gives me a sensation of vertigo. Vertigo. Mum wrote a paper about Vertigo, the film, and Proust, and how much the one had borrowed from the other. Madeleine Elster was Hitchcock’s heroine’s name. The connection was obvious, Mum said. Proust’s madeleines and his painter, Elstir, combined into one. And then, wasn’t Vertigo just a yearning for lost time? Wasn’t it the yawning abyss that caused the vertigo?
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Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x