An honest Malaysian cop probes a bizarre triple killing in 21 Immortals: Inspector Mislan and the Yee Sang Murders (Arcade CrimeWise, Aug.).
How did this book originate?
Long before I was a published writer, I’d been writing dark stories, which I shared amongst my close circle of friends. One night, while I was writing, my son Daniel, who was then six or seven years old, asked if he could be in my story, because he wanted to show it to his teacher. I told him my writing wasn’t published, and he said, “Why don’t you get it published?” I then started writing seriously, with the intention to be published, making sure Daniel was in it. I wanted to write something different. There are numerous stories of victims shot in a car, but I’d never heard of victims murdered by poison gas in a car. Similarly, there are numerous stories of staged crime scenes, but it was more to mislead CSI. I hadn’t come across victims staged for a spiritual ritual to facilitate a journey into the afterlife.
Were you always thinking of a series?
When the characters of Inspector Mislan and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Johan, were created, I wanted to develop a series around them. Among other things, I wanted to highlight the shortcomings of the police and issues in Malaysia’s current affairs, which I did in the subsequent books. Duke talks about politicians reaping the country’s resources, such as logging for timber and sand-mining, for personal gain. Utube addresses anti-LGBT activity and corrective rape in a politicized Muslim-majority country, and Soulless has to do with human trafficking, which the government denies is taking place. My newest novel in the series, Philanthropists, touches on drugs, the pandemic, and Rohingya refugees.
What was it like incorporating your professional experiences into fiction?
I didn’t find any difficulty doing so. Though the crimes and characters are fictional, the investigative procedures and processes are true to life. My work as a police officer and security consultant made my writing tighter. Specifically, the techniques of criminal investigations, the thought processes investigators must develop have carried over, both in the way I write and in the content.
Why do you write in English rather than in Malay?
It’s simple. Most Malaysians of my age group, that is, in our 60s, were educated in the Queen’s English. Because of that, English was our spoken and written medium all through our adult working days. I’m ashamed to admit that, while my Malay is enough to carry me through and to write novels, my thought process is in English.