The mystery genre has seen the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Nick and Nora Charles, Nero Wolfe, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Kinsey Millhone, and dozens of other sleuths, both male and female.
Mobashar Qureshi’s sleuth, Hyder Ali, has now joined their ranks.
Hyder works for The Daily Times, a newspaper located in a fictional American city named Franklin. When the Hyder Ali series begins, Hyder is working as a temp at The Daily Times. Should he score a big story, however, a permanent position will be his. Hyder does find that big story, but it is one that leads to brushes with death and the ultimate uncovering of a crime. It is a crime Hyder does not solve alone, however. Detective Tom Nolan of the Franklin PD is a friend of his, if an unlikely one. Poor Tom lost his wife and unborn baby in a fatal automobile accident, a tragedy that sent him into a downward spiral that put his career on the line. Thanks to Hyder, however, Tom finds the strength to get back on his feet as a policeman.
One of the most interesting things about the Hyder Ali series is that Hyder is a devout Muslim. In an age where the Muslim faith has been treated with paranoia, Mobashar’s clear eyed depiction of the religion via Hyder’s practice of it is both refreshing and eye opening. Faith in God is faith in God, no matter the negative spin given by extremist practitioners of it.
I have had the honor of working with Mobashar as his editor for the Hyder Ali series. He recently took some time out from his busy schedule to do a Q&A with me.
Tony Held: What inspired you to become a fiction writer?
Mobashar Qureshi: I actually didn’t have any interest in becoming a writer. I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was a huge fan of Spider-man, Batman, X-men, Spawn, and so on. I practiced everyday but eventually realized I didn’t have it in me to be an artist. It was around that time I started reading novels by Michael Crichton. I was blown away by how entertaining they were. So I thought I’d give novels a shot. If I think about it, whether I was an artist or even a writer, what I really wanted to do was tell a story.
TH: What inspired you to begin the Hyder Ali series?
MQ: After completing my last series (the Gently books), I found myself not interested in writing any more. I felt I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say as a writer. It was after speaking to another writer that I thought why not write a series based on a Muslim character? There weren’t that many to begin with. So I thought who better to write them than me?
TH: What was your inspiration to create the character of Hyder Ali?
MQ: Hyder is a combination of me and the character Tintin from the comic series, The Adventures of Tintin by Herge. Like Tintin, Hyder is a reporter, and like me, he is a Muslim. I would love to have Hyder go on outrageous adventures like Tintin, but I think he is better suited to solving mysteries in the fictional city of Franklin. Tintin doesn’t give up in his pursuit of finding out the truth and Hyder doesn’t either.
TH: What was your inspiration for the character of Detective Tom Nolan?
MQ: Again, I would have to say it’s from The Adventures of Tintin by Herge. Tintin’s partner in most of his adventures is Captain Haddock, a drunk with the heart of gold. Captain Haddock is funny and unpredictable and Nolan is too. Nolan’s wild and erratic behavior is perfectly suited to balance Hyder’s straight and calm demeanor.
TH: What was your inspiration for the other characters in your series?
MQ: The other characters were inspired by people I had met over the years. I find when I’m writing, people around me somehow make their way into the text.
TH: Is the Hyder Ali series following a bigger story arc involving your characters, or is it coming into place one volume at a time like, say, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series did?
MQ: It is intended to be one volume at a time. This was done consciously. If readers enjoy the books then I will continue writing them, if not then I wouldn’t want to stop the series in the middle of a story arc. This would be highly disappointing for the fans that were invested in the books from the beginning. However, I do hope there is growth in the characters from one book to the other. They make friends, they get married, they have children; they evolve with each successive book.
TH: What city (or cities) inspired you to create Franklin, the fictitious city the Hyder Ali series is set in?
MQ: Primarily, Chicago, New York, and Toronto. Toronto makes its way in because I live there. Having said that, I find I’m always putting some elements of cities I’ve visited. If I saw a great church in one city, I’ll place one in Franklin. If I saw a great architectural building in another, I’ll set a scene there. Since Franklin is a fictitious city, I feel I have a blank canvas to work with.
TH: Do you have any advice regarding how to write a good mystery novel?
MQ: Characters matter more than the actual crime. The crime should be compelling but if readers don’t enjoy spending time with the main characters than they won’t care if the mystery is solved or not.
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