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Gregory David Roberts Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Shantaram (2003) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Mountain Shadow (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Gregory David Roberts is an Australian writer who is best known for the novel Shantaram. Roberts, born in June 1952, overcame a debilitating heroin addiction and crime life to engineer a successful writing career that is to a large extent a chronicle of his earlier struggles. Roberts became a heroin addict leading to a strain in his marriage that ended in divorce and the loss of custody of his daughter. In order to finance his drug habit, Roberts turned to crime and was sentenced to 19 years for bank robbery but he made a famous day time escape from Pentridge Prison after serving just two years. After evading capture for ten years he was rearrested on a drug trafficking run in Frankfurt in 1990, spending a further 6 years in prison. He published his first novel “Shantaram” after leaving prison. The book was extremely well received and Roberts sold the rights for a potential film for $2 million.

Shantaram

Shantaram is essentially a pseudo-autobiography which narrates Roberts’s former life as a criminal and drug addict, with significant exaggeration to the actual events. The story is narrated by Lin, an escaped prisoner who has fled to Bombay, India using a fake passport. Accompanied by Prabaker, his friend and guide, Lin joins the Bombay underground where crime, murders, prostitution and vagrancy abides in no mean proportion. The lonely fugitive, looking for a meaningful attachment and turnaround from crime, starts running a clinic in a poor Bombay neighborhood though he is still engaged with the Bombay mafia. It is not a world easily left behind, and Lin soon finds himself entangled in a web of deceit and murder. Soon he is back to being a wanted man. Two people hold the key to solving the problems that bedevil Lin: Khader Khan who is the mafia godfather and former mentor; and Karla, a stunningly beauty but dangerous criminal operative whose secrets haunt her and afford her devastating power at the same time.

Karla’s beauty and bad girl charm consume Lin, and his pursuit for her put him in conflict with every criminal element hiding out in Bombay’s ruthless underbelly. Soon his identity is discovered and a warrant for his extradition adds one more worry to his long list of woes. On his trail are not only police but every sadistic scumbag looking to score a reward for turning him in. Shantaram is as much a crime story as it is an educative pamphlet on cultural identity. The struggles of Lin, raised Australian, when he goes to India sum the contrasting cultural intricacies of western and eastern societies. He however discovers a much more complicated and dangerous culture than he had left back home. Roberts brings out these contrasting cultures in exceptional detail teaching the readers a great deal about life in these societies.

Mountain Shadow

Mountain Shadow, the sequel to Shantaram picks up on the events of the earlier novel two years later. The story is still set in Bombay but introduces a host of new characters while purging some characters from Shantaram. Lin has found work as a forger within a mafia organization run by Sanjay Kumar and inherited from a former mentor named Khaderbhai. He is living with a new girlfriend named Lisa though he still has a crush on Karla from the first novel. Meanwhile Karla is married to Ranjit, a budding politician. Determined to stay out of trouble, Lin’s future looks bright but he is plunged back into familiar tribulations when a new Irish acquaintance, Concannon is abducted by a rival gang seeking information about the Sanjay mafia. His girlfriend also wants to end the relationship in order to see other people. A chain of explosive events is set in motion as Lin tries to escape the circling vortex of trouble that draws him in.

The climax of the story was a confrontation with eight men all who have murderous intents against each other. A dramatic shootout leaves only Lin standing, described in extremely adept fashion that brings out Roberts’s imagination and descriptive prowess, two of the most important ingredients for a successful writing career. Roberts goes deeper into Indian culture giving the reader a vivid inside scoop on the situation that Lin faced on the ground. Beyond that, this book is in several ways an inferior product to Shantaram. The descriptive effort into different characters is not as intensive as it was in the first novel, and there is a distinct feel of disconnect between Lin from the first novel and the second. Although it features roughly the same number of characters as Shantaram, Mountain Shadow can get the reader lost in all the intricate happenings especially for those yet to sample the first book. Despite the slight deficiencies, it remains an extremely entertaining read that will charm action fans and other fans alike.

Overview of Roberts’s Work

This series totals over 1700 pages but the story does not in any way feel overly drawn out. The action remains dense and entertaining throughout the body of the novels, a tall order given the volume of text contained in the series. While some scenes are incredibly well constructed, Roberts in some cases shows a tendency to overelaborate leading to situations that surpass the threshold of believability. The overall skeleton of the series, especially in the first novel maintains close fidelity to events of Roberts’s life, but the exaggerated parts are easy to spot because they are narrated with one dimensional overtures that are too good to be true. It reflects an almost desperate attempt by the writer to paint himself as a conscientious individual rather than the man that many people would assume at first exposure to his life story. Overall however, these two novels are an excellent effort which showcase the creativity of Roberts and his ability to turn real and imagined events into compelling reads. Although there are obvious exaggerations, Roberts describes the different cultures in accurate detail, showing a great acquired understanding as well as extensive research. A perfect mixing of romance and humor softens the roughness of the stories a bit, helping to appease readers of many different types. This novel duo by Roberts is undoubtedly one of the best literary efforts of the 21st century.

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