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The British crime author Peter James is back with Want You Dead, the latest thriller to feature his popular detective Roy Grace. He speaks to us about his newest work and dark inspiration.
You have published a new book annually for the past 10 years, not to mention regularly visiting literary festivals. When do you actually have the time to write?
I do plan my life a certain amount when it comes to my work. But at the same time there are certain things that also happen that you don’t expect. It’s like what John Lennon said: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” People think the life of a writer is to just sit in your garage, write a big book and then go have a long lunch. But I do spend half of my year attending book festivals and I write when I am doing it. So I got used to writing in the back of the car and I remember finishing one novel on a plane to Singapore.
Your latest book Want You Dead has you focusing on the darker side of online dating. How did the idea come to you?
A lot of what I write is influenced by real life. With Want You Dead, the origins of that book was when a detective from Brighton phoned me up. He told me a story about a [female] doctor who signed up to an online dating agency. She met a man and she liked him but he was a little bit clingy. The man had a very colourful past and every time he would come to see her he would leave something in her flat, like he was stealthily moving in. Now the girl’s mother, she was suspicious about him and she hired a private detective to investigate and she discovered he had a real dark past. That gave me the inspiration for this novel.
Want You Dead is a real page-turner. Would it be fair to say that your writing style in the series has developed, whereby the plots are faster now?
I would say that. The first Roy Grace book [2005’s Dead Simple] was pretty fast-paced, but I gave myself the luxury in the new books of slowing it down a little bit and going more into depth. I am now deliberately writing at a faster pace again. I basically like writing the way I like to read. I want people to get hooked on the first sentence. That’s why I spend weeks on the first line or first page. Because that to me is everything.
With Roy Grace being such a loved character, do you feel like he belongs to readers now as opposed to being solely your creation?
I do feel like people have ownership when it comes to Roy Grace. So I have to be careful about what I do with him. I get so many emails that say “Don’t let him do this” or “He is now in a happy relationship so don’t ruin it”. People get heated about it, to be honest.
That’s a great predicament to be in as an author.
I love it. I love the fact that Sherlock Holmes is still receiving letters at Baker Street. I think the hardest thing in writing is to create a believable character and one that people fall in love with. When a writer does that, then it becomes even more difficult, as Arthur Conan Doyle found out when he wanted to get rid of Sherlock Holmes and do something else. People didn’t want that, they wanted Sherlock Holmes.
View the interview by following the link:
As Peter James was born in Brighton, Sussex, on the South Coast, he has very kindly allowed us to talk about our new Internet Television Channel for the area, TVS Television. TVS Launched on 5 July 2014 with the Live broadcasting of neighbouring Eastbourne’s 999 Display. The event was filmed and broadcast Live by TVS on Sussex Police’s website. It will then be available to view on demand on the website for TVS at www.tvstelevision.co.uk.
TVS where back in the early 1990s Peter was a regular guest on the Fern Britton show, is making a comeback after 22 years and will feature lots of community interest programmes, to include documentaries on events such as Pride 2014, a series on Sussex music band talents, a Paranormal series, a children’s series and much more. So it will have lots of exciting new content, under the umbrella of the good old name.
TVS is on Social Media. We can be found at www.twitter.com/tvs_television and www.facebook.com/tvstelevision. Please do hop along and Follow us. If you have any ideas for content you would like to see broadcast then please do contact us via these methods or via our website www.tvstelevision.co.uk.
Click here to view the Peter James Newsletter July 2014
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Can James grab book chart crown from King?
A CRIME author is hoping to bag another number one as he battles it out with a legendary horror writer at the top of the bestseller book charts.
Peter James has been meeting his fans in Sussex this week to mark the release of his tenth Roy Grace novel, Want You Dead.
Early sales figures put the Brighton-born author marginally ahead of The Shining author Stephen King, but the winner won’t be announced until next week.
On Tuesday night, The Argus’ editor Michael Beard hosted a special question and answer session with Mr James to discuss his latest book in front of an audience of Argus readers.
The author has been thrilling crowds with book signings across the county, which are set to continue at Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham on Monday.
Mr James said fans had travelled from as far afield as York 270 miles away to see him at the book signing and that he took great inspiration from speaking to fans and meeting professionals who could assist him researching future books.
He added: “It was great fun, I really enjoyed the evening and Michael threw some interesting questions and I had some good ones from the crowd.
“When I am writing to deadline it feels like I am locked in my cage so it is a relief to be released and it’s always great to meet my readers.”
Peter James, the crime author, reveals his favourite haunts in Brighton, the setting of his Roy Grace novel series
Brighton's unique in that it's got a quite dramatic coastline on one side, and only a few miles north there is the South Downs national park (0300 303 1053; www.southdowns.gov.uk) and some of the most stunning countryside in England. The city itself also boasts some stunning classical Regency and Victorian architecture, but at the same time, you only have to walk along some of its twisting old alleys and lanes to imagine yourself back in the 18th century. Last but not least, it’s got a dark underbelly to it which I first discovered when I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock as a kid – and that’s, in large part, why I set my Roy Grace crime novels there too.
Anything special I should pack?
Take something to wear on the beach, be it some flip flops or sandals. It would be a shame to visit and not at least go for a walk by the sea, and if you’re feeling brave, even dip your toes in the water. Take a Brompton bicycle too – there are now some great cycle lanes the length and breadth of the city.
What’s the first thing you do?
I love to go for a stroll along the Undercliff Walk which goes right the way along from the Brighton Marina (01273 693636; www.brightonmarina.co.uk) to the Black Rock area. I love walking there in the winter on a stormy day when the tide is literally smashing over the breakwater; it’s just so incredibly atmospheric. I also love going down to Brighton Pier (www.brightonpier.co.uk) which I still think boasts the best fish and chip shop I know anywhere in the world. The views from the pier are fabulous too – I have fond memories of going fishing at the end of the pier as a boy.
What’s the best place to stay?
As much as I like The Grand Hotel (0118 971 4700; www.grandhotelbrighton.info), I’d recommend the Hotel du Vin (08447 364 251; www.hotelduvin.com) which is absolutely gorgeous. I love the atmosphere of the place, and the rooms are beautifully decorated with a real attention to detail. They also serve terrific food in the restaurant downstairs.
Where would you meet friends for a drink?
I like to go to Bohemia (01273 777 770; www.bohemiabrighton.co.uk), which I reckon is the best bar by far in Brighton. It’s in the Lanes, has got various levels and boasts a trendy rooftop bar which is a great place for a glass of cool white wine in the summer.
Where is the best place for lunch?
I really like English’s (01273 327980; www.englishs.co.uk), an old traditional seafood restaurant with an outdoor dining area too. Whenever I eat there – I usually opt for the lobster salad – I feel like I’ve travelled back in time to a Graham Greene novel.
And for dinner?
There’s a very nice, very stylish restaurant at The Grand Hotel called GB1 which I can wholly recommend. It opened last year and everything I’ve ever eaten there, be it oysters or sole, has been terrific.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Everyone one should go the Royal Pavilion (03000 290900; www.royalpavilion.org.uk) , with its extraordinary oriental appearance, and North Laine (www.northlaine.co.uk), with its funky artisan-style shops. The Old Police Cells Museum (01273 291052; www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk) is also well worth a visit – Brighton started life as a smuggling village and has a long criminal history – as is the Penny Slot Machine Museum. At certain times of the year, you can also take a tour of the sewers, which is absolutely fascinating.
What should I avoid?
If you’ve got any sense, you’ll stay away from the bit of London Road between the bottom of Trafalgar Street and St Peter’s Church, a rather grungy, dodgy sort of area.
What should I bring home?
There is a funky, quite unique tailor’s called Gresham Blake (01273 609 587; www.greshamblake.com) where you can pick up quirky cufflinks and other fun inexpensive gifts. You could also get some whelks or cockles down on the seafront. Last but not least, a stick of Brighton Rock.
Anywhere that isn’t your kind of town?
Bucharest, which could have been the most stunning place if Nicolae Ceausescu [Romania’s former Communist dictator] hadn’t destroyed half of it, and if it didn’t have a mayor who is said to be corrupt. It could be an amazing place but not right now.
Click here to view the Peter James Newsletter June 2014
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Click here to view the Peter James Newsletter April 2014
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Sudeshna Sarkar / 15 March 2014
Peter James has turned his killer instinct to perfect use, plotting a series of spine-tingling murders that have sold over 14 million copies. SUDESHNA SARKAR catches the man who gave the world
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace in the act
By his own admission Peter James would have probably remained a ham spy story writer if his house had not been burgled. But his house was broken into and when he reported the crime to police, a detective came home to investigate.
Nearly 30 years later, when James narrates this story to me, he forgets to include whether the stolen goods were ever recovered. Instead his conversation is about the wealth of wonderful things he gained from the experience — the friendship of the detective, the camaraderie of the local police officers whose lives he found to be far more fascinating than the three spy thrillers he had written till then, and the culmination of all this novel knowledge and insight into a new-found talent for writing whodunits which turned out to be bestsellers.
“Nobody sees more of human life in the course of his career than a cop,” he says, half musingly, half in admiration. “And of all the crimes that human beings commit, murder is the one crime for which there is no possible restitution.”
Treachery and murder has been part of human life since time immemorial and men have continued to be both fascinated and repelled by it. Think of Qabil in the Holy Quran who killed his brother Habil out of jealousy, or the betrayal of Jesus by Judas that led to the crucifixion.
“Look at Shakespeare,” James urges. “The stories of Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear and Titus Andronicus. Look at Sophocles’ Oedipus. That’s a crime novel.”
There’s something else too that James shares with Shakespeare. While the bard’s father was a glovemaker, so was James’ mother.
As he expounds the link on his web site: “My mother, Cornelia James, was Glovemaker to Her Majesty the Queen… The firm is today run by my sister, Genevieve and her husband, and still supplies the royal family, and there were plenty of our gloves on display during the recent jubilee. All those wonderful waves by Her Majesty on the boat on the Thames were in Cornelia James gloves!”
James’ crime fiction has given the world Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, the sleuth based on Dave Gaylor, the officer who investigated his burglary in the 80s, and now checks his manuscripts to ensure that there are no false notes. DS Roy Grace not only solves other people’s mysteries but nurses one in his own life as well, after coming home one day and finding his wife had vanished into thin air.
The other thing that adds zing to the Roy Grace books is the cunning use of the word “dead” in the title: From the debut novel Dead Simple to the ninth Dead Man’s Grip, to the newest one, Want You Dead, that will be released ceremoniously at a “big party in England” in June.
Besides the drama that he witnesses firsthand when he goes out with his police friends — to murder scenes, on drug busts and searches for missing persons — James also finds fodder for his plots in his own life. The eighth Roy Grace title, Not Dead Yet, was inspired by the fan who became obsessed with him. She flooded him with email, took his photographs with a long lens and began turning up at his public programmes with a chilling regularity.
Want You Dead is also about obsession. The idea came to him from a real-life incident he chanced upon during his trips with the police.
“It was a case of domestic abuse,” he explains. “It is about a man who became obsessed with a girl he had met through a dating agency. I take a lot of things that actually happened and then adapt them to the plot. Want You Dead is about the dynamics in a relationship, how people change. How men change and women blame themselves. Domestic abuse is much more serious than people think.”
Why do people love to read about blood and gore, even those who would never harm a fly?
The man who has made crime pay has given the matter a great deal of thought. “At the deepest psychological level, it is about what one can learn from this. What made a person behave the way he did? What made him kill his wife? What can I do to avoid that?
“At another level, human beings love puzzles. We love solving them and the unravelling of a crime fascinates us.
“At the third level, we all have a dark side to us. Even a few years ago people used to go to public hangings. We like reading about crime and murder in the safety of our own homes, in the company of our loved ones.”
Though James’ books have been published in 36 languages, sold over 14 million copies and been adapted for the stage as well as the screen, he has one little grouse.
“The writer is always at the bottom of the movie chain and business,” he says indignantly. “In 1993 I had three books adapted for the screen and was taken to the studio and introduced to the lead actor. He shook my hand as if I were a piece of dog turd.
“I thought to myself, you wouldn’t have been here but for me. Everything starts with the writer, somebody who puts a pen to a piece of paper. That is where it all begins.”
But last November, like the victims in his novels, James too had his just desert moment.
It was another adaptation of his books and he met Claire Goose, the British television actor who had a role in it.
“‘You must feel like God,’ she told me, ‘having created all this.’ Yeah, I thought. Finally somebody has got her priorities right!”