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Alan Johnson to give reading from newly published novel

February 27, 2020

Ready for an authentic murder mystery set in southern India? Alan Johnson, from the Department of English and Philosophy, Idaho State University, will read from his just-published novel, Family Plot, at a celebration of the book at Barricade (106 N Second Avenue,
Pocatello) on Friday, March 6, 3:30-5 p.m., with the reading to commence at around 4 p.m.

The celebration and reading is open to the public, 21 years of age or older only, free of admission. Copies of the novel and beverages will be available for sale. Just after this event, at 5:30, the department’s creative magazine Black Rock and Sage will be at Barricade for the First Friday Art Walk.

Johnson considers this publication a long-held dream: “I'd always written fiction, and had always wanted to write novels. But I hadn't gone about this methodically, especially because I was preoccupied with research and teaching. But I finally decided a few years ago that it was 'now or never' and set aside some time each week to write. I'd had the opening scene in mind for years, so went with that. It took me about four years to write. I completed it just before my last Fulbright, but it took another 3 1/2 years of whittling it down, editing, finding an agent and working with the publisher to finally see it in print.”

Johnson specializes in postcolonial literature, especially of India, where he was born and raised. From ages 9 until high school graduation, Johnson attended an international boarding school in the hill range — the Palni Hills — where his novel is
set. Conversant in Hindi, Johnson visits India frequently, has friends and relatives there, and does academic research there.

The novel features a Dr. Ravi Krishnaswamy, who autopsies the murder victims of Family Plot in Munnanai, in southern India. Krishnaswamy is recently transplanted from northern India and teams up with Sub-Inspector Muthu Satyamurty, a native southerner. First, the “bludgeoned body of Anna Peters” is found. The “blunt-talking SI sees Ravi as a nosy northerner,” and “Muthu arrests Anna's former student, Jiffy Lyall, when a book gifted to him is found in her home.” Then “retiree Colonel Mukherjee is found shot dead.” And “then a third body turns up. What are the links between Jiffy's book and the murders? And how does the discovery of an ancient skull fit in? One thing's clear: the Lyall family plot of land is tied to the mystery.”