BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
His thrilling novels capture the essence of Queens and keep you guessing.
Local author Tejas Desai, who was born and bred in Flushing, has lived most of his life here in Queens — the eye of the storm during the height of the pandemic. The prolific writer’s firsthand experiences during that time left an indelible mark on his psyche but also provided substance for his timely, upcoming book.
QNS recently caught up with the successful author, who has been busy working on his newest project, to find out what he’s been up to.
“During the toughest months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, I was privy to many of its harsh realities since my mother is an essential worker at Elmhurst Hospital Center, the worst hit hospital in Queens,” he shared.
“After finishing interviews and promotion for ‘The Dance Towards Death,’ I’m going full steam into writing Volume Two of my other series, ‘The Human Tragedy,’ which is a series of short story collections that seeks to create a panoramic portrait of American society.”
Tentatively titled “Bad Americans,” the anthology sequel has received great reviews including being called ‘a solid collection of rare caliber’ that ‘speaks volumes about the human condition and modern life in America’ by Kirkus Reviews.
“While I don’t want to get too much into the content yet, let’s just say the pandemic will have a large influence on the collection and that the structure will be innovative,” Desai added.
“Good Americans” (2013) was an Award Finalist in the 2020 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Content in the Fiction-Urban category and has experienced revived international interest due to the current turbulence in the U.S.
The novelist was interviewed for a TimesLedger story in 2019, before anyone knew about the “storm” that would be hitting NYC and beyond just one year later.
Since then his books have had tremendous success. “The Brotherhood, Volume One of The Brotherhood Chronicle,” became a No. 1 Amazon Bestseller in December 2019 and the third volume of his international crime trilogy, “The Brotherhood Chronicle, The Dance Towards Death,” also became a No. 1 Amazon Bestseller last month, on its publication day.
All three must-read books in the series (“The Brotherhood,” “The Run and Hide,” “The Dance Towards Death”) have continued to garner great reviews, and “The Brotherhood” won the Pencraft Award in the Fiction-General category.
It’s no wonder that Desai’s novels have been so popular: Back in March of 2019, he told QNS, “In the essence of Queens, I wanted to write a genuinely multicultural crime trilogy that moves at a breathtaking pace and that’s what ‘The Brotherhood Chronicle’ is.”
“It takes on contemporary issues like religious fundamentalism, political corruption, the relationship between individual and community as well as ethnic, cultural and gender identity,” he explained. “In ‘The Brotherhood Chronicle,’ the characters are very ethnically, culturally and socioeconomically diverse, and the books teach the reader a lot about Hinduism and Buddhism even as you’re engaged in a riveting mystery thriller that never stops entertaining.”
Desai continued, “Much of it is set in Queens. And the other settings are amazingly rich, too: the lush beaches of Thailand, the gritty streets of India, the sleepy towns of the American South. It features a fast-paced plot with action, mysteries and surprises, entertaining dialogue and fascinating characters.”
The author said his greatest education has been on Queens’ streets and during his frequent worldwide travels, where he has “interacted with, listened to and observed people of all types.” Those experiences combined with a lot of research and a robust imagination, led to the inspiration and creation of his compelling works.
Desai recounted his sheltering in place experience, which in some ways, further shaped him as a writer: “First, I got sick myself in late January and had to cancel my trip to Indonesia/Malaysia/Singapore, since I was flying through mainland China. At the time I thought COVID-19 could spread here but was trying to avoid a nightmare scenario while traveling, since I had gotten sick on two successive international trips,” he recalled. “I ended up keeping my vacation for a month, but I was sick the entire time and stayed at home, and even for a week after, and I was around no one but my family. As soon as I got back to working my day job at Cambria Heights Library, we had to close in a week and the city mostly shut down.”
The author said he was in the eye of the hurricane, as he lived in Flushing, worked in southeast Queens, and since his mother was an essential worker at the hardest-hit hospital. He remembered driving her to and from work during that time.
“I was definitely privy to death, social reality and practice during the pandemic,” Desai shared. “I knew people who passed away from COVID-19, including African-Americans, the most affected racial group. I observed the period where people were audaciously ignoring the public health warnings. The NYPD even took down the basketball hoops near my house since 50 to 80 people were playing every day without social distancing. I knew people who were victims of the most heinous prejudice, particularly Asian-Americans, and not always from who you would assume.”
He continued, “I was working from home doing library work, including virtual programming, but I was constantly writing during that time and was able to complete the final edits of ‘The Dance Towards Death.’ More importantly, knowing that ‘Bad Americans’ would be my next project, I started thinking early, even when COVID was known to only be primarily in Asia and Europe, about how I could incorporate the pandemic into my book.”
So, he started gathering material for the fictional substance of the book.
And, once things started to loosen up, Desai said that he traveled outside Queens, including to places where the more well-to-do were escaping, so he was able to explore that angle, as well. And throughout, the author was in touch with many people via Zoom and kept up with various news sources and social media.
“It always has been, and probably always will be, my surroundings: the people I meet and hear about, the anecdotes and stories I’m told, the places I travel to and read about, the food I eat. Also, the other books I read, but these days that’s usually secondary,” he told QNS.
Talking about his beloved mother and her influence, he also shared: “My mom has been my rock for a long time. She has very good sense, so I often ask her advice when I am making life decisions. I don’t always take it, but I know most of the time it’s sound. Otherwise, she taught me to be tough but compassionate, she allowed me a certain independence growing up. Both my parents are great people, and I’m very lucky to have been raised by them and still have them in my life.”
The author said that he hopes readers will check out “The Brotherhood Chronicle” crime trilogy. “It’s a unique, exotic, ceaselessly entertaining series. You’ll be mesmerized, and you’ll learn a lot,” he added.
“If you like gritty crime thrillers that make you think, then this trilogy is up your alley.”