The Mysterious Mr Jacob

The Mysterious Mr Jacob

The Mysterious Mr Jacob

It was a scandal that rocked the highest echelons of the British Raj. In 1891, a notorious jeweller and curio dealer from Simla offered to sell the world's largest brilliant-cut diamond to the fabulously wealthy Nizam of Hyderabad. If the audacious deal succeeded it would set the merchant up for life. But the transaction went horribly wrong. The Nizam accused him of fraud, triggering a sensational trial in the Calcutta High Court that made headlines around the world.

The dealer was Alexander Malcolm Jacob, a man of mysterious origins. After arriving penniless in Bombay in 1865, he became the most famous purveyor of precious stones in princely India, and a confidante of Viceroys and Maharajas. Jacob also excelled in the magical arts. He inspired all those who met him, including Rudyard Kipling who immortalised him as Lurgan Sahib, the -healer of sick pearls', in his novel Kim.

Now for the first time, John Zubrzycki, author of The Last Nizam, conveys the page-turning colour, romance and adventure of Jacob's astonishing life. Starting on the banks of the Tigris in modern-day Turkey where Jacob was born, Zubrzycki strips away the myths and legends. He follows Jacob's journey from the slums of Bombay, to the fabulous court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, from the hedonistic heights of Simla, the summer capital of the Raj, to the Calcutta High Court. This is a story of India, of strange twists and unexpected outcomes. Most importantly Zubrzycki enters into and truly captures the spirit of the mysterious Mr Jacob, one of the most enigmatic and charismatic figures of his time.

John Zubrzycki is the author of The Last Nizam: An Indian Prince in the Australian Outback. He is also an award-winning journalist whose long association with India has included stints as a Hindi student, diplomat, consultant, foreign correspondent and tour guide. He is currently researching links between Indian and Western stage magicians at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The Mysterious Mr Jacob
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: John Zubrzycki
ISBN: 9780995359437
RRP: $29.99

 

Interview with John Zubrzycki

Question: What inspired you to write The Mysterious Mr Jacob?

John Zubrzycki: I'm always on the lookout for stranger-than-fiction stories and the life of Alexander Jacob fitted the bill. Here was a man who arrived in India penniless and within a decade and a half was the most successful jeweller and most famous magician in India. He was so successful he very nearly pulled off the biggest diamond deal in history. He dabbled in the occult, spied for the British who thought he was spying for the Russian. He was a celebrity in his day, yet no one really knew where he came from or who he really was.


Question: When did you first learn of Alexander Malcolm Jacob?

John Zubrzycki: I first stumbled across Jacob when I was writing my first book: The Last Nizam: An Indian Prince in the Australian Outback. Jacob had tried to sell the Imperial Diamond, the largest cut brilliant in the world weighing 184 carats or nearly twice the size of the Kohinoor to the Sixth Nizam. All I had was an obituary published in The Times in 1921, but that was enough to get me hooked.


Question: What fascinated you about Alexander Malcolm Jacob?

John Zubrzycki: Jacob was a master story teller, spinning incredible mostly made up stories about his life. He was both charismatic and enigmatic. He seemed to have a profound effect on everyone he met including Rudyard Kipling who used him as the model for Lurgan Sahib, in his novel Kim. Jacob had access to India's Maharajahs and its Viceroys. He was a hustler and a risk taker, yet people trusted him.


Question: Can you talk about the research that went into The Mysterious Mr Jacob?

John Zubrzycki: Separating fact from fiction when writing about someone born a century-and-a-half ago is never easy, but writing about Jacob was particularly difficult because he did his best to hide his past. Fortunately the British always kept a close watch on his movements so when I went to the archives in New Delhi and London I found quite a lot of old files. I was also very lucky to find some unpublished manuscripts in Istanbul which shed light on his early life and how he got to India.


Question: What did you enjoy most, when writing The Mysterious Mr Jacob?

John Zubrzycki: Putting together pieces of an extraordinary puzzle, finding clues hidden in the margins of old files that no-one had consulted for decades, discovering some of the fascinating characters that he crossed paths with, seeing his house in the Himalayan foothills, searching (unsuccessfully) for his shop-and of course finally getting the book published so I could share his story with the world.


Interview by Brooke Hunter

 

The Mysterious Mr Jacob
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: John Zubrzycki
ISBN: 9780995359437
RRP: $29.99




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