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Mithran Somasundrum

The Essential Reading List

Mithran was born in Colombo and grew up in London. He studied chemistry at Sheffield City Polytechnic and then did a PhD in electrochemistry at Cranfield University. After completing his studies he went to Thailand to work in an electrochemistry lab and, other than a 3-year spell in Japan, has been there ever since.

His short stories have appeared in The Sun, Inkwell, Natural Bridge, The Minnesota Review, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and The Best Asian Short Stories 2017, among others. One of his stories was shortlisted for the Bridport 2017 Short Story Prize. His first novel, The Mask Under My Face, was published in 2021 in Singapore by Kitaab.

Books by me

The Calculator and Other Stories by Mithran Somasundrum

The Calculator and Other Stories

"Back in the ‘90s, walking around a traffic-choked area of Bangkok called Pratunam, I saw a sign jutting from the side of a building reading, “Translations – Detective.” That became the seed for some short stories I wrote for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine about Vijay, a perennially broke translator who occasionally does private detective work to help pay the bills. They are now collected here, and are permanently free on Kindle:"

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The Case of the Vanishing Conman by Mithran Somasundrum

The Case of the Vanishing Conman

"My short stories about Vijay, and his assistant Doi, led me to taking him on a novel-length adventure. In “The Case of the Vanishing Conman,” Vijay ends up juggling two different jobs: for Khun Pleum, a ruthless ex-gangster, he has to investigate the strange shooting of a novelist. Meanwhile, Khun Pleum’s wife wants to know the name of Khun Pleum’s mistress. Vijay knows he really shouldn’t have taken both jobs, but he has a debt collector with a claw hammer threatening to make his ankles turn all the way round. "

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Books that influenced me

Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Farewell My Lovely

Raymond Chandler

"I probably wouldn’t have ended up writing private detective stories in the first place, if it wasn’t for Raymond Chandler. In “Farewell My Lovely,” Philip Marlow meets the huge, clumsy ex-con Moose Malloy, and learns the man is looking for his old girlfriend, Velma Valento. Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated case, Marlow is tasked with making a ransom payment to get back some stolen jewels. But nothing about this job is as it seems. “Farewell My Lovely” is a perfectly structured story that can only end one way."

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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man in Havana

Graham Greene

"Graham Greene is probably my greatest writing influence. I think Greene had everything, freshness of language, sense of place, cleverness of plot, vivid characters, dialogue that resonates off the page. Set in Batista-era Cuba, in “Our Man in Havana” a vacuum cleaner salesman called Wormold is unwillingly recruited into the British Secret Service. It then occurs to Wormold that if he invents agents he can claim their expenses... “Our Man in Havana” is Greene’s funniest novel."

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Personal favourites

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

The Periodic Table

Primo Levi

"I first read this book as an undergraduate in Sheffield, during the final year of a chemistry degree. I can’t think of another memoir like it. Each chapter has the name of an element, and Levi uses this idea to relate the events of his life – the hopeful years of his youth, his incarceration in Auschwitz, his work in the chemical industry – to particular properties of each element. The result is something transcendent. The concentration camps took away the meaning human of life, and here Levi sets about putting it back."

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A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

A Bend in the River

V.S. Naipaul

"V.S. Naipaul is one of my favourite writers, and this is arguably his greatest novel. Salim comes from a family of Indian traders who have lived in Africa for generations. He buys a shop in the continent’s interior “at the bend of a great river,” and tries to make a go of things. But when revolution comes it emphasises the temporary nature of Salim’s existence. Never African enough to be safe, he doesn’t really have a country he can call home. "

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Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser

Flashman at the Charge

George MacDonald Fraser

"To end on something more lighthearted: George MacDonald Fraser was a great describer of action, and this novel gives plenty of scope for his skills. His protagonist, the inveterate coward Harry Flashman, finds himself taking part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. Later, having been a prisoner in Russia, there is an unforgettable description of Flashman’s escape by sledge, across the frozen steppes, while chased by a pack of wolves. And now his problems are only just beginning..."

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