The Only Indian Legal Thriller Writer in the World, Vish Dhamija

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I woke up slowly in the morning, and a little bit of fatigue was still left in me. The extra dose of whiskey last night slowed me down, I felt. Forcing myself,  I stood up and went straight to the kitchen. Some tepid lemon water would energize my body, I thought.

I stay alone in my apartment in the busy suburbs of Mumbai. The hustle and bustle of the city had already taken a toll on me and now I am standing here with a glass of lemon water in the morning trying to become normal from my inebriated state. I had a group of friends yesterday night, yeah it was fun!

I finished up the lemon water and thought of getting a bath. I stepped into my room, trying to squint as I was not able to see clearly. Something just didn’t seem normal. It felt like a thief broke in last night. Nervously, I stepped into the room and opened all the drawers, and checked my cupboard. Everything is fine here, why am I panicking? 

I took my towel from the cupboard and went straight to the bathroom to take a shower. I shrieked with pain as I removed my slippers. Something sharp had pierced into my toes. A sharp and wet feeling took over me. With fear, I slowly looked down to see what it was.

A meat cutter knife with fresh blood on it lay there. I was sure that the knife did not belong to me as I was a vegetarian. I went pale as the blood in me was all dried up. Slowly, I went to the bathroom door and opened it. I switched on the lights to remove the darkness. The last thing I remember is that I fell to the ground and my head hit the edge of the bathtub!

Are you a fan of crime fiction? We all love stories with suspense, thriller, and some mystery in the plot right? This month, we have a special guest for our cover feature. Some call him India’s John Grisham, and some call him India’s only writer to be listed among the major legal thriller authors of the world!

I hope you might have guessed the name by now. We are pleased to have an opportunity to have the Only Indian Legal Thriller Writer in the World, Vish Dhamija on the cover of Storizen Magazine this month. Below is an excerpt of the candid conversation we had with the author.

Love for Crime Fiction

Vish loves writing Crime Fiction and considers all other genres which he writes as a sub-genre of Crime Fiction. Moreover, he believes that genre comes second to the plot. “I write crime fiction—from crime capers to police procedurals to noir to psychological thrillers. I usually think of a plot, and not worry about which genre it will slot into. For me, the genre is secondary. I dropped out of law halfway through, but legal proceedings and legal fiction still fascinate me… so I write in this sub-genre too.” 

Vish Dhamija

Crafting Unique Titles & Book Covers

The creative writing process requires a lot of research and brainstorming. In all the books, written by Vish that I have read, I felt that his titles have something enticing, they are unique! For Vish, he took it as a complement. “I wish they were as unique as you mention! But thank you.

I try my best that the title describes the gist of the story (Cold Justice, Unlawful Justice) or the mood of the plot (Nothing Lasts Forever) or something about the protagonist (The Mogul, The Heist Artist) or the locational quirkiness of the background (Bhendi Bazaar),” he elaborated it further.

It is often said that “Never judge a book by its cover,” but still I feel that it has a big role to play when it comes to picking a book to read. Coming to the book covers, I personally liked the cover of “Cold Justice“. For Vish, the blue color was immediately shortlisted by him and his editor the moment they saw it.

“We did not even look at other colors for the background. It was then a case of getting the right color for the image and fonts. We wanted the image to reflect that the book is legal fiction (ergo, Lady Justice’s head), but we were also quite clear that we didn’t want the image to be so big that it dominated the cover. The result is what you see in the book.”

Vish’s Love for Nature

I feel that whatever we humans have done to date, some way or the other we have damaged nature. I am glad that Vish also feels the same.  “I think we, as humans, have made enough changes that have only damaged this world. We should stop playing with nature, and let it heal. In fact, we should stop making any further changes if you ask me. If Covid has taught us anything, it is that we all can survive without a lot of things we previously thought we couldn’t do without. Let’s use the earth’s resources judiciously and leave it in a good state for future generations.”

Vish Dhamja Living Room

Building the Characters

The most challenging aspect of writing crime fiction is crafting its characters, doesn’t matter be it the protagonist or antagonist. I was curious to know what was Vish’s take on crafting his characters. For him, crafting DCP Rita Ferreira (Bhendi Bazaar, Doosra, Lipstick) has been the most difficult one.

“I wanted to draw her in a manner that she was apt for the job yet flawed enough to be believable (not a superhero). Plus, my intention was to write a series with her as the protagonist so that required that much more attention. Favorites – I’d say Rita Ferreira and Akash Hingorani (Unlawful justice, Cold justice).”   

I think we, as humans, have made enough changes that have only damaged this world. We should stop playing with nature, and let it heal. In fact, we should stop making any further changes if you ask me.

– Vish Dhamija

On his book ‘Cold Justice’

Courtroom dramas, crime fiction, murder mysteries, I love to read all. As a reader, I am just flowing with the plot, but reversing the role, I wanted to know about the book and what goes on behind the scenes.

About the book, Vish told me in brief, “Cold Justice is a legal thriller. A sitting judge is accused of first-degree homicide—she is caught, in situ, with the murder weapon in her hand, and the impossible job of defending her falls on the defense advocate who once dated her. The book has its fair share of emotion and romance, but it is essentially a courtroom drama, as legal thrillers are sometimes referred to.”

Cold Justice by Vish Dhamija Banner

I was curious to know about the publisher’s and editor’s take on Cold Justice. For Vish, it was something that carried on for months and is a part of the process. He had writer-editor sessions back and forth for months.

We did not even look at other colors for the background. It was then a case of getting the right color for the image and fonts.

– Vish Dhamija

“As a matter of fact, before my manuscripts get to the publishers, they are already assessed by my literary agents, Siyahi. If there are any contentions, they get sorted before it gets to the final editor’s desk. As a rule, I take feedback from both—my literary agents and the publishers—seriously. They know the readers, the market, and hence, the pitfalls. Not listening to them would be unwise.”

For the upcoming writers, Vish has the advice to share that one should not stop writing even if others are telling them to. “Creative writing is only 50 percent about creativity; the other 50 percent is persistence.

You need to have a story in mind, and a strong conviction that when you write a story, it is interesting enough for others to read. Do not be swayed if people tell you otherwise—soldier on regardless. And, most importantly, find yourself a good editor or a literary agent. But you must write that manuscript first.”

Apart from writing, Vish enjoys playing  Golf, listening to music, reading, and watching television shows, mainly thrillers. He is also managing a Nursery School, so a lot of his time is spent there too.

It was really an insightful conversation and it’s a pleasure to grab an opportunity to have this discussion. I thanked Vish for his time as he went on to board his flight back home.                       

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Storizen Magazine July 2022 Cover Vish Dhamija

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