Sam is an ex-Scotland Yard detective and veteran of the First World War who has been scarred by his experiences and finds himself in Calcutta looking for a fresh start.
Life has not exactly done him many favours. His mother died when he was young and he was packed off to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, which he was forced to leave when the money ran out. From there he pretty much fell into becoming a policeman, a job which, fortuitously, he’s rather good at. He’s quickly promoted from a beat copper to CID and then to Special Branch. The coming of the war derails his career and in 1915, he enlists in the army, mainly to impress the girl he loves into marrying him.
After a year of sitting in a trench and being shot at, his superiors realise that his talents could be put to better use and he’s transferred to Military Intelligence. He’s wounded close to war’s end and is shipped home, recovering in time to find that his wife has died in an influenza epidemic.
Scarred by his experiences, and because there’s nothing left for him in England,he accepts the offer of a job with the Imperial Police Force in Calcutta.
Like anyone else, Sam’s a product of his experiences. He’s always been an outsider, but what he saw during the Great War – the carnage, the futility and the ineptitude of those in authority – has left him cynical. He likes to think he sees the world for what it is, rather than blindly swallowing other people’s preconceptions and prejudices, and in this sense, he is a man of the modern age, and a man with a conscience. But I don’t think he’s as ‘modern’ as he likes to think he is. In truth, his unwillingness to accept what he’s told is as much down to his general stubbornness and distrust of authority as it is to any sense of open-mindedness, and despite his protestations to the contrary, I think there are certain racial taboos he’s not willing to break.
He has a rather dark, gallows sense of humour which colours his outlook on life, and I think that’s a reaction to what he’s been through. The war and the death of his wife have destroyed his faith in a god, and he’s come to see the world as a cruel and arbitrary place where any search for meaning or justice is absurd and ultimately futile. If he has a philosophy, it would be similar to Kierkegaard, not that Sam would ever have read any of the man’s work.
I think Sam’s come to India to find something. He doesn’t know what it is, and I don’t know if he’ll ever find it, but it’ll be an interesting journey. I hope you enjoy the ride.
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