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Q&A queue greets Q and A

London, April 17: Vikas Swarup has returned to London, where he was a middle-ranking diplomat at the Indian High Commission 'until September 12, 2003', but this time to do a hectic promotional tour as the author of his debut novel, Q and A.

Not since Arundhati Roy won the Booker in 1997 has so much fuss been made about an Indian author by a grateful publisher.

In three days, Swarup has given umpteen interviews, been the star turn at a big party thrown by his delighted publishers, Doubleday, gone to the Oxford literary festival where he sat on a panel and answered complicated questions from clever clogs and launched his book at the Nehru Centre.

'What's changed' someone asked him at the Nehru Centre. 'What's changed is that before I used to be down there,' replied Swarup, pointing to the audience, 'now I am up here on the platform.'

He also found time to reach a tentative agreement with FilmFour on a screen version of his novel, which tells the tale of a young Mumbai waiter who answers all the questions correctly in a Kaun Banega Crorepati kind of TV quiz show (except that the prize this time is Rs 1 billion).

For his pains, he gets thrashed and finds himself in a police lock-up on the grounds someone with his background could not possibly have known the answers and therefore he must have cheated.

But he hadn't and just how he managed to get all the answers right is the plot of Swarup's readable novel which has captured the imagination of all who have read it.

Three Bollywood producers have asked for the rights but for the time being, Swarup is pitching for FilmFour. The screenplay is to be written by Simon Beaufoy, who had a huge hit with The Full Monty.

Q and A is also to be turned into a West End musical in London, with Tanika Gupta writing the script and Nitin Sawhney the music. 'They will be coming to India soon to do research,' said Swarup, in a late night conversation yesterday with The Telegraph, shortly after he had returned from 'my first trip to Oxford'.

While in London, Swarup also signed the contract for the 18th foreign language version. 'We have just agreed on a Czech translation,' he said.

The book is going into so many foreign language translations that he has to really concentrate to remember them all. Apart from English, there is 'French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese ' yes, they are different ' Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Polish, Turkish, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Hindi and Czech'. He thinks the book might work best of all in Hindi.

When people ask how he found his literary agent, Swarup replies that he found Peter Buckman, of the Ampersand Agency, by surfing the Net. This was because he knew no one in the literary world.

'Peter Buckman handles the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming and P.D. James. He calls me his number one client,' grinned Swarup.

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