Gregory David Roberts was born in Melbourne, Australia. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for a series of armed robberies, he escaped and spent ten of his fugitive years in Bombay - where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured, he served out his sentence, and established a successful multimedia company upon his release. Roberts is now a full-time writer and lives in Bombay.
Well, hmmm....that's what the book is about. But it's fiction. So what's up? From an interview:
Q. When did the idea of an autobiography, with the city both as a character and as a backdrop, first strike you?
A. With respect, Shantaram is not an autobiography, it’s a novel. If the book reads like an autobiography, I take that as a very high compliment, because I structured the created narrative to read like fiction but feel like fact. I wanted the novel to have the page-turning drive of a work of fiction but to be informed by such a powerful stream of real experience that it had the authentic feel of fact.
That being said, the answer to your question is that I made the decision – to include myself in my own work – while I was on a smuggling run to Africa. I sat at a table in my favourite dive in Kinshasa, in what was then the nation of Zaire, and shared a drinking session with five other men who were all in the city as smugglers, mercenaries, and law-breakers. We took turns to tell each other our stories. When the other men voted my story the most interesting, I made the decision to stop writing from the invisible, omniscient author’s perspective, and to include myself in my work.
I'm on page 200, and it is fascinating and worth every page.... more to come....