Thanks to a friend’s notice, I got to know that Ken Follett was visiting Madras on Dec 14th as a part of his world tour to promote the first book of his latest trilogy. The rendezvous was at Landmark 4 PM. I got reminded of that at 3:30 and had to rush doubting if I would be able to catch a glimpse of the writer. And it all happened.At around 4:10, he was inside the store and to my surprise, the store was loaded with books of his, and there were about 50-60 fellow Follett fans!
As soon as he got the microphone, the power went off for just 2-3 seconds and he was quick to say ‘I haven’t got that reception before!’. He went on to talk about his latest work Fall of the giants– The first part in the trilogy that has dedicated parts for the World war I, WW II & the Cold War. He mentioned that the specialty or rather the difference that this work of his would have in comparison to the others was that it would show the three defining periods of the century from the view of five families – each of these families belonging to different nations & therefore the reader would be treated to five different experiences that people around the globe had undergone during the century. He also warned that it was an ambitious act of his, to plan three novels even before the release & reception of the first but he backed his decision with practicality. He said ‘I am 61 already & if I can’t be ambitious now, I can’t be later on!’. After that came the questions from the audience.
To one question on his inclination towards writing a book on the history of India (given his wonderful accounts on European & Soviet history), he replied that the option was still open – Well, it looked to be a polished way of saying a ‘No’. He was quick to add that there were a lot of extremely talented Indian writers in India & in the USA & UK and it was their responsibility to come up with such a work. To the audience’s surprise, he also added that one of his sons had married an Indian (a girl from Madras!) and probably the grand child of that decadency would write a book on Indian history!
He was at his transparent and humourous best when he talked about his formative years as a writer. Before his breakthrough novel Eye of the Needle, his books seemed to have found the most invisible of racks in bookstores and those of Forsyth were selling like hot-cakes and they used to block the vision of his tiny books from the visitor's eyes. He used to wonder what or where he lacked from churning out a best-seller and with Eye of the Needle, that question had been answered and then there was no looking back for Ken Follett.
Many of them complimented him for his wartime espionage stuff & when it was my turn, I pointed out that he was as good with science fiction as he was with wartime novels and that my favourite work of his was the science thriller ‘The Third Twin’. He was happily surprised with this when he said the’Aah..Thanks for that’. My ‘Thank you’ was acknowledged with a ‘You’re welcome’ – So typical of a Brit! I was happy to leave the showroom with an autographed copy of his ‘Jackdaws’ - One I'l treasure for the solenoid like autograph kirukkal of his!