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May 13, 2014 Posted by tahir in Books

Finding Miki

Aiko Horiuchi as Miki Suzuki of Paris SyndromeWhile I was writing Paris Syndrome, I got a picture of the protagonist, Miki Suzuki, rooted deep in my head.

I saw her as ingenuous and kind, a woman who was passionate and self-effacing, and awed by the simplest of things. Petite, with small hands and a slim form, a little overly tense, I imagined her as the sort of person who gave far more to the world than she took.

And all the while I wondered whether I might ever meet her in person.

Miki Suzuki…

My Miki Suzuki.

When Paris Syndrome was ready – written and edited – I set about thinking how I could find Miki as I had thought her. One night I found myself slipping off to sleep, dreaming of a much-loved place I had known so well more than twenty years ago…

Fujisawa… a beach town an hour or so outside Tokyo. I was living in Japan, lured by the thought of what seemed to be the most exotic of cultures, and by my obsession for the Ainu people on the northern island of Hokkaido. Completely impoverished, and living mostly on ceremonial cabbages stolen from Ueno Park (which I made into a thin wretched broth), I was taken in by the Taketani family.Aiko Horiuchi as Miki Suzuki of Paris Syndrome

In many ways I was the soup of the soup – the friend of a friend. The Taketanis sucked me in without asking who I was or where I was from… or indeed why my luggage was almost exclusively made up of sacks filled with cabbage, ripped hastily by night from the flowerbeds of Ueno Park.

They fed me, and laughed with me, and revealed to me a kindness that has almost never been matched since in all my travelling days. Ototsan, the father, would sit up all night with me. Through broken English, he would describe the marvels he had seen, and others of which he had only heard. He had thought of them so often that through a curious alchemy they had become real memories of his own.

Years passed, and I left Japan after living there for a year and more. I pined for it – for the plain details and the oddities, but most of all for the Taketani family, who regarded me as one of them.

Aiko Horiuchi as Miki Suzuki of Paris SyndromeWaking from my dream, I found myself sitting upright in bed, thinking of Shintaro Taketani, the brilliant musician-son, who had moved to London many years before. Separated by the enormity of the English capital, and by layers of culture and convention, we had lost touch.

Clambering out of bed, I found Shintaro on Facebook, and sent him a message. Towards the end, a little anxious quite how to phrase it, I asked if he had ever heard of the condition that had so intrigued me – Paris Syndrome.

By the end of the next day, Shintaro had replied. But beyond that, he had connected me with Aiko Horiuchi – a svelte, gentle Japanese woman who was living in Belsize Park. An actress, Aiko, and her friend Kaya, were currently the front line in Shintaro’s alternative ‘Girl Horror Band’ – The Pompoko Sisters.

I flew up to London from Casablanca, roped in my old friends, film makers David and Leon Flamholc (with whom I had been in a Pakistani torture jail), and all together we set about creating Miki from the limits of my mind.

Aiko Horiuchi as Miki Suzuki of Paris SyndromeThe morning of the shooting, I had found myself at a questionable address in London’s Soho. A basement shop, it specialised in whips and harnesses, batons, and all manner of rubberised goods. It wasn’t so unlike the Pakistani jail, I suppose. Just a whole lot cleaner.

The woman behind the counter asked gruffly what I’d come for. Looking her in the eye, I replied: ‘I have never before had cause to say the question I am about to ask.’ The sales woman cocked her head at a pile of rubber clothing at the edge of the counter. ‘Rubber, love?’ she asked. I shook my head. ‘No, not rubber.’ The sales woman seemed a little disappointed. I blinked. ‘I was wondering whether you sell straight jackets,’ I said.

And hour later, Aiko was strapped in tight, arms trussed up, her face damped down with grey makeup, hair teased out. The lights were turned on, then the camera began to roll and, before I knew it, Miki Suzuki came alive…

…and Paris Syndrome was born.


Casablanca Blues Book Launch in London

CASABLANCA BLUES by Tahir ShahAre you free on Sunday, 20th October? Join me in central London for the book launch of Casablanca Blues. It’s a small event and tickets are limited. I’ll be presenting my new novel, Casablanca Blues. I’ll also be available for book signing.

I’d love to see you there! The venue has just allowed me to release more tickets, but they are going fast, so do sign up now if you’ll be in London on 20th October.

You can sign up below using the Eventbrite form:


Eye to Eye, not to be confused with EYE SPY

Is this a wild coincidence, or a message to me from the Universe?

(Another Tahir Shah, also obsessed with eyes).


As a side note, the paperback edition of EYE SPY should be out in the next 6-8 weeks. In the meantime, I’ve set up a contest on Goodreads to give away 6 signed advance copies on July 25th. That means that if you win a copy, you’ll have it before the book is available for purchase.

Enter now for a chance to win:

May 30, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

New Release: Three Essays


I’m very pleased to share with you the release of these three essays. Those who have read Eye Spy will be especially interested in the essay on cannibalism. They are all currently available online as individual purchases, and the three essay bundle will be available very soon.

The Legacy of Arab Science 

The Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth 

Cannibalism: It’s Just Meat 

May 24, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

Last Chance on Scorpion Soup

Scorpion_Soup-01If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of the limited edition Scorpion Soup hardcover, now is the time to do so. I have uploaded it to Amazon, and the price will increase as of June 8th. This is your last chance to get it at its reduced price directly from my website.

I think I mentioned to you before the hardcover was released that I wanted to make it available to my readers at a discounted price before uploading it to Amazon. It’s been out for a few months now, and it’s time to shift the sales to Amazon.

Get your copy now.

Scorpion Soup is also available as an ebook:

También está disponible en español: Sopa de escorpión


Q&A on The Caliph's House

2012-07-26 10.48.43I am occasionally interviewed via email or invited to participate in a Q&A for a course that is reading one of my books. I thought I’d share this one with you, which discuses The Caliph’s House:

1. Why did you choose to express your feelings through imagery, rather than express them directly? 

That’s a good question and one I have never been asked before. I wrote The Caliph’s House not long after 9/11, and I had that atrocity in my mind all the way through. It was really important to me to try and show Morocco from the inside out, and in a way that American people especially could receive. I wanted to show the kingdom in ways that were not merely descriptive, but touched the senses, as well as reaching an audience through anecdotes. It was difficult to do, but I am always so happy when people write to me saying that the book changed the way they regarded Morocco — ie as not “just another” Arab country.

2. Did you realise that the Arabic meaning of the characters’ names in the book correlate to their personalities, or is this coincidental?

Read more

April 3, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

New Releases from My Backlist

TS ebook series backlist

I’m very pleased to share with you the release of my travel backlist as ebooks. Each book has been updated with a new introduction, with the exception of Travels With Myself, my 2011 release. Trail of Feathers will also be available very soon.

Get your copy now: Read more

March 21, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

Get Your Limited Edition Copy of Scorpion Soup

Scorpion Soup by Tahir ShahAs announced on my Facebook page yesterday, Scorpion Soup has now reached the UK warehouse, which means that all orders to the UK and to continental Europe will be available for shipping starting this afternoon.

There were some questions about shipping costs to continental Europe, and we’ve found a less expensive way to take care of this, so all book orders to continental Europe will pay the same as the UK orders. They will be sent via Royal Mail.

Order one copy of Scorpion Soup to the UK or to continental Europe using this link. Generally speaking, books will be shipped within 24 hours after an order is placed, for Monday-Friday orders.

Pre-orders for the US can be placed using this link. All orders will be uploaded to our fulfilment system as soon as they’re received by us. The books should reach the US warehouse this week or next, and books will ship out automatically as soon as they’re checked into the warehouse.

As I mentioned before, we’ve tried to keep the purchase price on this book as low as possible, which is why I’m only making them available for sale through my website for a limited time. Once they go online to other retailers, we’ll have to raise the price to cover commissions and fees.

At this point, there are links to purchase one copy or five copies. If you would like a different amount, please email secretum.mundi at gmail dot com, and someone can check on the cost of shipping for you.

Many, many thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy this book.



Upcoming Projects for 2013

I’ve been posting on my Facebook page about upcoming projects for the first half of 2013, without sharing too much detail. I’d like to include a quick overview of things to come:


I’ll have an article coming out in Newsweek (now online only), in the next couple of months. I’ll post on Facebook as soon as it’s online.

Backlist ebooks

I’ll be releasing ebooks from my backlist starting very soon. We’re still working on the cover art, but they’ll be coming out one by one in the next couple of months.


I’ll be speaking at the literary festival there, so if you’re based in or near Lithuania, I’d love to see you.

Scorpion Soup limited edition hardcover

This is now available for pre-order over at the Scorpion Soup website, and books will be shipping out in late March. There are purchase options for both the US and the UK, which is where the books will be warehoused. If you’re in another country and would like a copy, please contact me and I’ll let you know what the extra shipping fees are. I’m trying to keep the cost down on this book by offering it only on my website.

You can also enter one of two contests on Goodreads for a chance to win a copy of the limited edition hardcover. There is a contest for US readers and one for UK readers.

Scorpion Soup en español

We’re also working on a Spanish translation of my recent release, Scorpion Soup. It’s over half-way finished, and then will go into editing before its release. It should be out fairly soon, and I’ll be sure to post on my Facebook page when it’s available.

Casablanca Blues

This is one of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’ve completed the first draft, and it’s being edited now.

Blaine Williams is a thirty-something New Yorker with an mid-life crisis and an obsession of the movie Casablanca. His world collapsing around him, he flees to the one place he thinks he knows and understands. A fragment of security in his troubled imagination, Casablanca the genuine article reveals itself as a roller coaster ride of danger, intrigue, and true love — a realm where nothing is what it seems.

Eye Spy

This is another of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’m half-way through the first draft on this.

While in Central Asia saving the sight of a debauched dictator, Dr. Robert Kaine, the greatest eye surgeon of his generation, unwittingly tastes a pie filled with cooked human eyes. Rather than being revolted by the dish, he adores it, and finds that it has an astonishing and ameliorating effect on the psyche. As the craving sets in, he will stop at nothing to get more of the illicit food.

Against a backdrop of an epidemic eye disorder called Occulosis, that threatens making everyone alive blind, Kaine is the one man who can save human sight… while robbing anyone he can of their eyes.


Scorpion Soup: ebook available now!

scorpion_soup_EBOOKcover SMALLIf you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know that the ebook edition of Scorpion Soup was released earlier this week. It’s already received several reviews on Goodreads, as well as Amazon US and Amazon UK, and it’s been featured on at least one blog that I’ve seen so far.

Scorpion Soup has its own website, with a full list of the eighteen stories, a discussion of the  frame story, my take on storytelling, and some background information on the Blaeu maps, ten of which are included in the limited edition hardcover of Scorpion Soup.

The ebook is currently available for purchase on Amazon US and Amazon UK, and it will be available shortly on other major ebook retailers, such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Gardners, Ingram, Kobo and Waterstones.

If you’re looking forward to the limited edition hardcover, with its 10 fold-out maps, it will be released on March 25th. It’s been prepared along the lines of Timbuctoo, with the same attention to detail. It’s available for pre-purchase now on the Scorpion Soup website.

I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for reading!