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An Interview with Peter James (Living Poitou-Charentes)

Top British crime author, Peter James, was recently interviewed by Sandie George. He has just published ‘Not Dead Yet’, the 8th in the Roy Grace series based in Brighton and reviewed in our last issue. Last year he won the ITV3 People’s Best Dagger Crime Writer, beating David Baldacci into second place.

Your latest novel, featuring the ever popular Det. Supt Roy Grace centred on a celebrity with an obsessive fan. Why did you come up with this idea?

I wanted to write about celebrities and how they shield themselves. Let me sidetrack a little to explain that I had a stalker for approximately 10 years. I thought nothing of it to start with, sheappeared at the odd signing I did and smiled and, of course, I would smile back. Occasionally she would get a booksigned; bringing her own and not neces sarily the one I was currently promoting. She emailed me and I would reply. Then she stepped it up and I discovered she had a Peter James shrine in which she was burning a candle. She would turn up at my home and I stepped up the se- curity. Then it stopped. A couple of years later I was signing books and this person was standing in front of me; saying “You know my name”. It was the stalker, she had changed her hairstyle and I did not recognise her. Then I received a 10,000 word email —just ridiculous but the whole thing has been dealt with now.

I went to Los Angeles to attend a ‘Threat Management Team’ conference and one of the speakers said that “celebrities were High Voltage people who created their own weather”. I met one Madonna fan who was totally obsessed with her and created share chat lines and hate lines. Astonishing really and quite frightening. So I also became sort of obsessed with this idea and it gradually took shape.

You live outside Brighton and Roy Grace is part of the local police force. There are some exciting adventure scenes that take place inside the Brighton Pavilion, which shows an in-depth knowledge that visitors would not normally see. Did you have a special tour?

The people at the Pavilion were wonderful and, yes, I did have the privilege of going to places where other people do not go, especially when I had this idea about the Chandelier moment (must not spoil the plot). I am totally claustrophobic and I had to crawl through this tiny hole upwards on my back and, all the time I was worrying about how I would get back as well. So I’m very pleased if I put that message across about how difficult it was.

You also decided to elaborate a little more on Sandy, Roy’s missing wife, and left us with a cliff-hanger on that one. However, quite some time ago when we last spoke you hoped to combine your film-making experience with your writing skills and create a TV series about Roy Grace. Are you any closer to this ambition?

Yes I am, as I retrieved the rights back from TV because I was not happy with how it was being developed. I am now returning to my film making roots. I have hired a screen writer, put together my old film-producing team and we are developing ‘Dead Simple’ as a movie. Depending on how that goes we will either continue to make films of the books, or make a TV series. I will have more news in the coming months.

You spent a lot of your life in southern France where your parents had a villa and, I know, love France. What are your favourite parts of the Poitou-Charentes area?

You are quite right — I do love France. It covers such a range of scenery and cultures, and each region and department has its individual identity. In Poitou-Charentes, there is the fabulous port of La Rochelle and the wonderful beaches along the Côte Sauvage. Inland there are Cognac and Poitiers, and I especially love the tiny town of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne with its awe- inspiring church carved deep into the living rock. The best-kept secret of all, of course, is the historic walled city of Angoulême, which is the World centre of the new art of the Graphic Novel, and hosts a festival for this art each January. I would dearly love to enter one of my classic cars in the Circuit des Remparts at Angoulême and take part in the cross-country concourse through the region to show off the beauty of these splendid vehicles. I can remember being shortlisted for the ‘Prix Polar International’ and the prize-giving was at a special dinner at Château de Cognac. I went along to the bar to start with, and met the other five shortlisted authors, all of whom were French. They all seemed very friendly and I commented on this. “We are friendly until we know who has won, and then we hate them”. We all sat on the same table and my name was eventually called as the winner of this prize. I can tell you I felt the hate from five pairs of eyes boring into my back! They did not buy me a drink at the end either!

The British people (or possibly all of Brighton!) voted you as the ITV3 People’s Best Dagger Crime Writer at the end of last year. In your acceptance speech you thanked those who had voted and promised them Fish and Chips on Brighton pier? Did many turn up?

75 turned up and we had huge fun.

Your love of racing is well known so are you still competitive?

Let me tell you my dream which I am going to fulfil. In five years time I am going to be a private entry in the Le Mans 24 hour race in a World Touring SEAT Toledo. I am taking professional lessons and experiencing a simulator regularly, so come and see me at Le Mans. Sadly, I had a big crash two years ago in my treasured racing 2CV and the car had to be rebuilt but I enjoy racing in the Brit Car series, so life is exciting.

What would your favourite last meal be?

Grilled Lobster followed by Mushroom Ravioli. Then a T-bone/Entrecote steak with frites. A massive cheeseboard that would have to have a really old Brie de Meaux and a Montfort. For sweet? Def initely wild strawberries — my tastebuds are watering just at the thought of this meal! Mind you, I would have to have some good wines such as Pouilly Fuissé; Calon-Ségur-St. Estèphe from a good vintage then Armagnac and a cigar.

You mentioned that you moved recently out of Brighton?

I found this wonderful property that had a lake with ducks on it and my partner and I just fell in love with it. As, indeed, did our dogs — Phoebe (German Shepherd); Oscar (Labrador) and Coco (Shih Tzu). Very unfortunately, Phoebe and Oscar werso delighted they caught some of the ducks and brought them to us as presents! However, I would like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you who have enjoyed my books. I will keep them coming and wish I could buy fish and chips for all of you!

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