After spending two years in India, Francis Marion Crawford returned to the United States in 1881 with a heap of memories. But few perhaps compared to his unusual encounter with a merchant of jewels, a man whose “mysterious origins and colourful infamy” made him endlessly fascinating.
Crawford was narrating this encounter to his uncle, Sam Cutler Ward, when the uncle encouraged him to write a magazine story about it. The idea clicked. Crawford, 27, set himself to work and within months produced Mr. Isaacs: A Tale of Modern India, his first novel that happened to be the first novel written by an American about India.
The book was an unexpected success. Not just in the US, but also in India and the United Kingdom, it was greeted with enthusiasm and it changed the course of Crawford’s life.
He would go on to write more than 40 novels, along with numerous essays and horror stories, over the next 28 years of his life. Several of these were adapted for the cinema, including…