Books about the Mumbai underworld are an altogether different adventure. Many are written by longtime crime reporters, policemen and law enforcers. I’ve found that they fall broadly into two categories (outlined, obviously, in thick white chalk).
a) True stories that are so outrageous, you can’t believe it all actually happened
b) Fiction that sounds so familiar you wonder whose thinly veiled tale you’re reading.
If you’ve loved how stereotypes unravel in Sacred Games, take a look at other tales of cops, robbers, gangsters and spies.
For a history lesson
Black Friday – The True Story of Bombay Bomb Blasts
Veteran crime journalist Hussain Zaidi has written several acclaimed books about Mumbai crime lords. Black Friday, his first, remains the best crafted. It works backwards from one of the city’s darkest chapters, when over two hours in March 1993, a series of deadly explosions tore across Bombay. Zaidi’s research pieces together how and why it happened and how gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon got away with it.
For the filmi connection
Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy
Honestly, even the regular stories about Sanjay Dutt are crazy enough. Yasser Usman’s unauthorised biography (Dutt has threatened legal action and an autobiography soon) goes further than the headlines. If you thought the recent film about the actor’s life was weak and whitewashed, this is where you’ll find all the colour and the unflattering bits. Is Dutt a born brat or a good guy who got in with the wrong crowd? You decide.
For the front seat look
Me against the Mumbai Underworld
Isaque Bagwan, who retired as an Assistant Commissioner of Police a decade ago, has played key roles in the city’s battle with crime. The three-time recipient of the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry was involved in several police encounters. He also took charge of Nariman House during the November 2008 attacks. His book covers smuggling cases from the 1980s, the blasts cases from 1993, investigations into underworld gangwars and the events of 26/11.
For the wide-angle perspective
The Dirty Dozen: Hitmen of Mumbai Mafia
Criminal masterminds rarely get their hands bloodied. Gabriel Khan’s stories from his days as a crime journalist look at the people who do the grunt work. It’s an inside look at the way hothead Firoze Kokani operated, how Arun Gawli’s henchmen got things done, the rise of Samad Khan and his fall, allegedly orchestrated by Dawood Ibrahim.
For the women’s view
Mafia Queens of Mumbai
Forget molls. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges show that Mumbai’s underworld has had a fair share of women players. Wives, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and unconnected strangers have risen to run black-market operations, manage drug trades, run prostitution and betting rings, and been trained assassins. They played advisors to dons and informants to the police. One is even worshipped in Mumbai’s fading red-light district.
For all the lingo
Khallaas – An A to Z Guide to the Underworld
A is for Anar, the bomb that looks like a pomegranate. Z is for Zero Dial, an informer in Dawood’s stronghold of Dongri. In between is a leisurely ride through underworld lingo, a glossary born out of a need to confuse the police and keep outsiders firmly out of the loop. In a world where they say Delhi but mean Dubai or refer to fake dollar bills as Clintons, J Dey’s guide helps makes sense of a complex parallel industry determined to go about its business.
For the global flavour
Dial D for Don: Inside Stories of CBI Case Missions
Neeraj Kumar served as an Indian Police Service officer in the CBI, neutralising terror modules and working to take apart crime syndicates across continents. His book covers cases from across his 37-year career, and much of it is set in or connected to Mumbai. There are post-blast investigations in 1993, match-fixing scandals involving local thugs, entire gang families that surrender en masse and black-marketing operations that rival multinational business networks. A great look at how the CBI operates and how crime knows no boundaries.
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