I met Scott Carney back in May 2008 when he was living in Chennai, freelancing for a slew of well-known US publications including Wired, Mother Jones and Discover.
The warm, lanky, American journalist seemed completely at ease in India, be it navigating his tiny Santro around the streets of Chennai or mucking about the countryside digging out stories most English-language, metro-centric, scribes paid cursory attention to.
And what fantastic stories they were!
Trailing grave robbers and bone traders in rural West Bengal, profiling a land mafia don in high-tech Bangalore, tracking down a little boy, stolen from poor parents living in a Chennai slum, all the way to a suburban home in America...
His long-form, narrative-style articles had drama, and adventure and pathos, all bolstered by rock solid facts. I think when I first looked at his website, I read all the articles he'd linked to in one sitting.
A few months ago, Carney's first book - The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers - hit the stands in the US and it's now out in India too.
The book, which explores in intimate and chilling detail the global grey (or "red market" if you go by Carney's coinage) market of human body parts - from bones, wombs (surrogate pregnancies), blood and organs, to clinical trials using human guinea pigs - "emerged organically" from the kind of stories he'd been working on for the past several years, Carney told me over the phone from LA recently. (He moved back to the US 2009.)
Image: Superintendent Mishra (right) and Scott Carney (left) one year after the death of Carney's student Emily. It was Emily's death that made Carney aware of the 'red market'. Superintendent Mishra has since been promoted and drives with an escort of two jeeps packed with machine-gun toting foot soldiers.
Images Courtesy: Scott Carney