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Research takes crime writer to scary situations (Fairfax NZ News)

Police raids, psychopaths and stalkers


Best selling crime author Peter James talks to Hannah Fleming about how he got the idea for his new book and what it is like to meet killers.

Peter James has been on risky police raids, spoken with some of Britain's most dangerous psychopaths, and put up with his own stalker for 10 years.

These experiences have inspired the books which helped him become an international best-selling crime writer, most notably for his series involving detective superintendent character, Roy Grace.

While his books are filled with crime, which is sometimes quite horrific, James said one of his earlier novels Prophecy contained the most alarming scene he had ever written.

"Someone was put to death by a red hot poker up their backside, which was how King Edward II died. I was wincing while I was writing that," he said.

Giving talks in prisons had also been an eye-opener. One woman in particular, who had poisoned her mother-in-law and husband, stood out to James.

"She was complaining to me about the amount of time she was given. That woman gave me the chills, it was as if she was complaining about a parking ticket."

Spending time with the Los Angeles Police Department's celebrity stalking team, and dealing with his own stalker for the past 10 years, provided James with the inspiration behind his latest novel Not Dead Yet.

"That really spooked me," he said of his middle-aged, female stalker.

"If I left a talk and walked down a dark street I would look up and down and immediately think Kathy Bates in Misery."

Also a film producer, James has worked with the likes of Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron and Al Pacino, who starred in his film, The Merchant of Venice.

That film was the work he was most proud of, said James, among a number of others which didn't exactly receive rave reviews.

"I have made a few decent things, but not intentionally," he laughed.

In his top five novels, James acknowledges Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, however he also admits to reading the odd piece of chick-lit. "I read anything that's on the bestseller list so I can find out what has made that book so successful."

There are three things that make a successful novel, he said - characters that people will be engrossed with, an intriguing plot, and adequate research.

The keen motor racer said the most rewarding thing was receiving emails from people who had been inspired to read more after finishing one of his books.

"That is the best thing. I think if everybody read more, the world would be a better place."



  • At 7:14 PM , Blogger val said...

    The Edward II scene had a big effect on me aged 18. Prophecy is on my bookshelf waiting for me to be brave enough to read it. I think this might push it back a bit further...

    Try not to imagine the Prospect Theatre Company's Old Vic production of The White Devil in the late 1970s where Glenda Jackson received a red hot poker in another private orifice...

  • At 7:56 PM , Anonymous Carrie said...

    Adore Peter's plots and gruesome scenarios, but opted out of going to see my step~son Lloyd in Richard 11, just could not face seeing the action on stage!! However, will make it in December to see him play the title role in 'The Bodyguard' [the new thriller/musical based on the film]
    . Perhaps he can give Peter a few tips on avoiding his 'Stalker' !!!

  • At 2:42 PM , Anonymous Shirl said...

    Just finished reading Prophecy as it goes. Another fine read! Gruesome? Oh yes! But it wouldn't be a Peter James novel if it didn't have you cringing every so often. LOL!


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