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Despite All Odds

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

Laddie Roy DFC follows an intrepid youth from a British colony who flies a combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force in the Great War. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Having read a few brief mentions of Lt. Indra Lal Roy or ‘Laddie Roy’ on Memorial Day, I was quite in awe of his achievements. Here was a young Indian boy from colonial India flying expensive war planes to take down the German aircrafts at a time when the Red Baron spread terror in the skies with his deathly ‘Flying Circus’. It seemed too good to be true: we have read amazing accounts of Indian infantry battalions storming German trenches on the ground but the aerial fight of the flying aces was a tactical and expensive war and if not for Colonel Sefton Brancker, no one from the British colonies could ever fly these magnificent machines, let alone get near them. However there were brave men from all corners of the Empire and America whose characters have been woven into Laddie Roy’s journey to greatness because they worked as one squadron, one team. It didn’t matter where they were from but what they did to fulfil their mission duties. Mike Mannock (Victoria Cross), George McElroy (Distinguished Flying Cross) and James McCudden(Victoria Cross) and many others were Indra Lal Roy’s contemporaries and colleagues who figure prominently in his story. When a plan and a few good men come together only greatness can follow, this was the inspiration for the setup of my story.

Indra Lal Roy is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Indra Lal Roy’s journey to become a pilot of the Royal Flying Commission (as the RAF was named at the time) was not without incredibly challenging odds and yet he overcame them. It was his struggle about getting past his first failed qualification test for the RFC, his first crash which nearly killed him, his remarkable recovery thereafter to become a flying ace in a matter of days gives us hope that we can achieve what we set out as our goals. Indra Lal Roy was as determined, as forthright and sincere as anyone could be but I see this brilliant brightness in his persona that just made destiny put the pieces together for him to fulfil his dreams until it didn’t in his final flight mission over Carvin, France. Roy never let up his determination to keep going despite all odds and yet he never lost that touch of humanity between missions despite fighting the moral dilemma of destroying an enemy aircraft.

My book touches upon this aspect of what we now call PTSD but back then soldiers were afraid to admit this and yet one could find evidence of their stress in the mails they sent back home as I have mentioned in the story. My driving ideals were to present as accurate a picture as I could, a snapshot of the time when flying was still an experimental science forcefully brought into urgent improvement during the First World war.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to delve into the psyche of the victor and the vanquished airmen in an aerial dogfight, clearly this is a different war than those fought in the trenches and that is where the heart of the book lies. One is transported into one of these biplanes, high above the sky, cold and alone except for possibly a few more colleagues in their own planes on a flight mission waiting to take on enemy aircraft. It is a situation where a thousand checks can fail save for one rash maneuver, one bracing wire to snap or have enemy aircraft shoot at you from below. Flying these aircrafts required incredible skill if one were to stay alive after the mission was over and this is the reason why some of the challenges faced by the pilots especially technical faults are mentioned. One has to remember these men were not given parachutes as it was a ‘do or die’ mission which made sure the pilot applied himself the best he could while flying these airplanes.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My third book would be a conclusion of my first one, The Incidental Jihadi because I couldn’t quite give the story a conclusion at that point in time. Given the geopolitical situation in Syria is difficult, it felt almost impossible to conclude the story but the wheels are in motion as some ideas are shaping into chapters. I always want the best for my characters which is why closure from the first book is quite important to me as it needs to be realistic to what could be achieved now that the US has retreated completely from Syria, leaving the nation completely open to Russian influence. I am hoping to complete the conclusion to my first book The Incidental Jihadi by the end of 2023.

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What were the odds of an intrepid youth from a rebellious British colony flying a combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force in the Great War? Could hopes and dreams survive at the cusp of an increasingly bleak conflict on the western front? Against all odds, Flying ace Indra Lal Roy (D.F.C. 1918) dreamt of flying airplanes and engaging in a new form of battle for the skies above German occupied France. He achieved ten victories in thirteen days. This is his story based upon true events from the war.

Laddie Roy DFC

Laddie Roy is the story of a young boy from India named Indra or ‘Laddie’, as he is later known. After the family moves to England, the older boys, Indra and his older brother, must try to integrate into a British school where they are faced with discrimination. They both enlist in the army to try and prove themselves. The story moves between Indra’s life as a boy and his experience during the Great War.

This is an adventurous tale that is full of vivid historical imagery and intriguing metaphors. One of my favorite pieces of writing is ‘Father Frost was gently laying a quilt of snow on Indra.’ There is something so compelling about it, especially since it is a peaceful scene juxtaposed against the background of war. In addition to the beautiful writing there are many quotes that the reader will find heartening and inspirational such as, ‘Exhausted in the satisfaction that he gave his best and the outcome would not matter as much as the journey itself.’ This gave the book the same uplifting and thought-provoking feel as Paulo Coelho The Alchemist.

It is good to see a story about the Great War that is told from the unique perspective of an Indian soldier. The way the main character’s life flashes between past and present is written in a clever way that is easy for the reader to follow, and makes the story engaging. I enjoyed seeing what lead to the character being in the war, and flying a plane in the first place. I felt connected to the character by the end of the story.

Laddie Roy DFC by Samrat Mitra gives readers an interesting and unique perspective on life growing up from someone who has emigrated to Britain and wishes to prove themselves, not only to their family and their country of origin, but also to their new friends and their new country. The writing in this story is so moving. I would recommend this impassioned military adventure story to any reader who enjoys military or historical fiction.

Pages: 282 | ASIN: 1915330025

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What Choices We Make

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

The Incidental Jihadi follows Len as he begins to realize there is a complicated game being played between the communist and the west. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this thrilling novel?

Back in 2012 the coverage on the Syrian crisis was quite rampant on the news with the images of high profile Caucasian victims in orange being executed by the vanguard in black. Around that time after a few freak clicks on the web I came across the recorded brutalities against Syrian civilians on what was surely an underground website. There lay cataloged in various categories the shootings, be-headings and post bomb blast videos taken in Aleppo, Idlib and a few remote unnamed Syrian villages.After confirming the authenticity of the videos and their location a few times(which was probably the most shocking and challenging research I had ever done) those unknown victims begged to be heard. I realised that no one was truly reporting the situation on the ground and ‘the news’ is not just about facts like the body count! The news broadcasters were just screening out the details to reduce this ongoing tragedy to a mere topic for the fortnight. No one wants to see a beheading while shoveling food in their mouths and I get that. But we must make room in people’s minds on the actual impact of any war for that matter and that needs to be done with realism which is on the ground and preferably not censored. This formed an idea to read beyond the news and perceive it’s reality and the inspiration stayed throughout till I completed the novel.

Len is an interesting character that is motivated by his family and their safety. What were some themes you wanted to explore with his character?

Len could be anyone of us who is physically able and a well educated immigrant living in a country where his efforts pay him excellent results. However none of us are actually ever prepared for what the future holds for us and what choices we make if we are faced with distressing situations beyond our control mould us as a human being. Far from being perfect and having a slightly sycophantic bend
he will do what his superior asks him to do even if it seemed ethically wrong and this trait is quite human especially in ambitious individuals. Len is reckless in his ambition and he makes the mistake
of involving his wife Sara in a project that had a warning light beeping on it from the word ‘go’. He descends into rage anger and depression as they are marooned in the remote city of Qatmah, this is
again a denial in his own mind of the rash choices he had made to appease his superior and endangered the one person he loved. Wave after wave of shocking transformation in Len(his acceptance of a life in Qatmah, the change in his identity, his family’s abduction) and how he chose to accept it as a man shows how his character metamorphosed from someone in denial to someone who takes responsibility and acts appropriately and this is where Naim seems to be his alter ego but they are really the same person. I was hoping to show that come whatever a situation in life, the man who survives the longest is the one who does not live in denial of the responsibility of his actions. I wanted to explore his ability to keep doing the right thing even in the face of inevitable catastrophe.

The story is vivid and detailed in it’s account of people and places. What research did you undertake for this novel?

Besides the research into the distressing underground video material on the executions, I started reading up on the Middle Eastern conflict to understand it’s origins starting right after the end of the Second World war particularly around the time when the United States started exerting it’s political clout over Britain and France back in the fifties. That was just for historical perspective though as my perception changed after I met a few of the Syrians who had come to London to take refuge( we would never call them refugees, it just seemed a derogatory term to use). Their stories told in straight english sentences was as heartbreaking as it could be and the videos, the history and their accounts all tied together with the information I gathered from Arabic and African news journals. This was a point of view that people seldom saw and that is what I brought into the novel. In terms of geographical locations, names and places mentioned throughout the novel, they are all actual places and the actual novel gets more gripping when you lookup the places on, say, google maps and find that every bit of the descriptions including terrain, the people and even the castle. They are wonderful examples of actual places that are existing on the edge of the war and peace that keeps waxing and waning over the region.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I don’t believe I have completed Len’s development yet and there was a huge though entirely unintentional open end in this book: that of the fate of his wife. Len and Sara have a way of staying in my head, so there will be a final conclusion on their fate in my next book. I learnt a few lessons from my first novel, The Incidental Jihadi and this time I want to do justice to Sara and Len and the people they
have known and cared about. For this reason this is going to take at least a year in development and a year in editing. I just want it to be perfect.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite

The Incidental Jihadi: An alternative point of view by [Mitra, Samrat]Twenty-nine year old geologist/surveyor, Len Berkowicz has everything to live for: a wonderful companion and a successful career working for a major oil exploration company when his career mentor and friend, Eric decides to send him to a risk prone oil exploration project in the Golan Heights.

In his journey he assimilates the true nature of the ‘holy war’ through the eyes of his comrades, realising that a far more complicated and subtle ‘game’ played between the communist and capitalist powers on the ground.

Will Len succeed in his mission that seemed doomed right from its inception?

Can those of us living in the West be able to keep the dust at bay on our home turf when we decimate every Arabian state to rubble?

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The Incidental Jihadi: An Alternative Point

It is easy to forget that war torn countries are actually homes to some people. All I ever hear is of the fighters. I never hear of the people who watch beheadings happen so close to home. People who have gotten used to the smell of gunpowder. People who are no longer fazed by the sound of bullets cutting through the air. People whose mere presence amidst the chaos has made them parties in the war.

The Incidental Jihadi is a story about Len who later becomes Naim. Len is a geologist working at an oil exploration company. All is well with his family until he is sent on a risky exploration mission. A mission that will forever change the trajectory of his life and that of his family. He must liberate his family and therefore joins the war. He manages to sneak Omarm, his son, to safety. He cannot live in bliss though as he has to go back in for another try. Will he succeed in an endeavor that has little hope of success?

This is a very well told story full of excellent detail. You can almost smell the desperation and hatred in the air. You can feel the aggression. Samrat Mitra tells such a vivid account of events that the reader finds themselves plunged deep into the heart of war torn Middle Eastern locations. The reader will find themselves lost in a fight that very few understand anymore. A war whose collateral damage seems to be worsening with every line they read. It flows easily. In the author’s note at the back, Samrat says that this book is a depiction of actual events. The reader will be able to feel the air of reality, however unbelievable, in this story.

The author also seems to have a sober political mind. There is understanding of the political element of the events that take place. However, emotion seems to get away from him as he essentially calls some parties ignorant. Though somewhat truthful, it brings out the author’s passion and gives the book character.

This book may need some polishing but the passion and compelling plot overshadow whatever writing errors one might encounter. You will experience a cornucopia of emotions as this book delivers an alternative view that will urge you to think about a different aspect of the wars.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B073R5GQTV

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