Gregory David Roberts returned with a sequel to his 2003 best seller, Shantaram, in late 2015 with his latest hard hitting novel, The Mountain Shadow. Continuing with the semi-autobiographical story that saw him rise to international prominence for his debut book, the second outing was a big test considering the fact that its been twelve years since his last release. While it’s not the fifty-five year gap that Harper Lee had with Go Set A Watchman, it’s still enough for expectations to rise and pressure to mount on the delivery of the second part of the story.
The hardback and ebook release date was on the 13th October 2015 and with the success of the previous book, it looks likely that the second will have a pretty big fan following to build on. However, a lot will ride on how well it’s received by the hardback trendsetters and whether or not it can conjure up new vivid descriptions that will have a similar impact to those that made his name in the first place. The audiobook release hasn’t materialised as of yet, despite the fact that Shantaram is available from the likes of Audible. However, you can help to make it happen by putting in a request for the audiobook at Audible.
If you’re not familiar with the storyline of the opening book, you might want to catch up before moving on to The Mountain Shadow. Essentially, it was inspired by the true life events that saw Roberts escaping an Australian prison after he was arrested for armed robbery to fuel his addiction to heroine, but skipping the full detail of it before the new book wouldn’t really work.
In the first book, the story centres on a felon called Lindsay (Gregory’s duff name, according to the book), who manages to run away to Mumbai on a fake passport and ends up staying there, becoming a part of the local life in the slums. Once there he sets up a free health clinic, works with lepers, does extras work in Bollywood, finds love and gets recruited by the city’s criminal underworld.
The Mountain Shadow picks up with Lindsay two years after the end of Shantaram with Lin still in Mumbai – then known to many as its anglicised name of Bombay – struggling with the memory of everything that had happened and coming to terms with the rapid change that has overtaken the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. According to the synopsis, it is a story of his search for love and redemption in the midst of a thriller-like set of circumstances told with his hope and humour as he tries to piece together some level of understanding of what it is that unites humanity.
Roberts had apparently been working on the sequel for ten years prior to its release, giving him just a couple of years out from the whole enterprise, although this was probably burned up promoting the previous book and working with publishers Little, Brown Book Group on the sequel. The good news is that it’s kept him too busy to think about knocking over any more building societies, although in all fairness to him he’s managed to put a pretty messed-up past behind him and start anew with what’s shaping up to be a fairly significant career as a writer.
There are some similarities in the success of Shantaram to that of Marching Powder, which looked at the life of a cocaine smuggler who was caught and imprisoned in Bolivia’s most notorious prison. It’s hard to say what it is about books like these that capture the imagination of the literature world so avidly, whether it’s the risk taking element, the influence of narcotics or just a fascination with unconventional lives, but whatever it is, it looks like The Mountain Shadow has picked up all little of the same again for Gregory David Roberts.
A breath of Bombay hope, in the first glimpse of the sea, on Marine Drive, filled my heart, if not my head. I turned away from the red shadow. I stopped thinking of that pyramid of killers, and Sanjay’s recklessness. I stopped thinking about my own part in the madness. And I rode, with my friends, into the end of everything.
The end of the eighties was the beginning of everything. The Berlin wall fell on an empire, and the Taliban took Afghanistan. Lin, on the run after escaping from prison in Australia, working as a passport forger for a Bombay mafia gang, finds himself standing on a tattered corner of a bloody carpet that would soon cover most of the world. But he can’t leave the Island City: not without Karla.