My friend Peter James is a great writer and anyone who has read his work knows this is true. If you haven’t had the pleasure, do so now. He might not be James Bond but he’s close. As is his wonderful character Roy Grace. His latest, YOU ARE DEAD, is a runaway success and he dropped by to chat about it and other writerly things.
Tell us about YOU ARE DEAD–the eleventh novel in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. Does it pick up exactly where WANT YOU DEAD left off?
Sure! You Are Dead is my 11th Roy Grace novel. A young Brighton woman arriving home from work phones her boyfriend, to tell him she has just driven into their underground car park and can see a man acting strangely. Her boyfriend tells her to drive straight back out but before he finishes speaking she screams and the phone goes dead. He calls the police and rushes home himself – and she has vanished.
That same afternoon, workmen digging up a park in another part of the city, unearth the remains of a woman in her early twenties, who has been dead for thirty years. At first, to Roy Grace and his team, these two events seem totally unconnected. But then another young woman in Brighton goes missing – and yet another body from the past surfaces. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace has the chilling realization that there is a connection between the past and the present. Does Brighton have its first serial killer in over eighty years? A monster who has resurfaced after lying low for three decades?
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Aside from my imagination and own experiences, I regularly spend time out with the police and gain a huge amount of inspiration from things I see over and hear over that time. Today I spend an average one day a week with the Police, either in a patrol car, or an office, or at a crime scene, or on a raid, or with their Intelligence or forensic or search units – there are so many different parts to their work. I even have my own police car in Brighton! My publishers donated it to Sussex Police and it drives around with my name all over it. I often get inspiration from things the police tell me, or cases that officers are involved with. I believe to portray them credibly I need to be to a considerable extent involved in their lives, not just at work but when they are off duty. Many police officers only socialize with others in the police too – they feel more comfortable that way. They don’t have to worry about giving away secrets to a prying member of the public, or saying something offensive that might come back to bite them. But I also think one of the best resources for my inspiration is in shops all over every town and city in the land, and refreshed daily – newspapers! They contain so much of human life, and so many true crime stories. In particular, I often think that local provincial papers contain more in-depth coverage and lurid details than the nationals.
Did you balance reading and writing? Have you read anything good lately?
I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week. I have offices in my Sussex and Notting Hill homes, but I can write anywhere. Thanks to laptops, my office has long ceased to be a concrete space and I can write on the move. I actually write really well on airplanes, in the back of a car and in hotel rooms. But my favourite writing time is 6 – 9:30 in the evening. I got used to that when I was working full time in film and TV, and made this my ‘me’ time. I have a stiff drink – often a vodka martini, with four olives, put on music and get in a zone. I really love this time of the day.
I recently really enjoyed I LET YOU GO by Claire Macintosh. I was first sent it as a proof, asking for a quote, and I was utterly gripped. It is wonderfully written, with credible and interesting characters, and has one of the most astonishing twists I’ve ever read, turning the story completely on hits head halfway through. It was one of those rare books I put down thinking, “Gosh, wish I’d written this!
Also recently I have been reading Patricia Highsmith, a very recent discovery for me. I have seen Strangers On A Train and The Talented Mr Ripley, but had never read her novels. She is such a brilliant writer.
Who is a character you wished you created?
Hannibal Lecter – I think he is one of the most interesting villains in all of crime fiction, a character that in many ways changed the face of modern mystery writing. Before Hannibal Lecter we had good versus evil, with Hannibal Lecter we saw, for the first time, bad versus evil.
Are you a fan of crime television shows? If so, which ones?
I guess my favourite one of recent is Breaking Bad – if my time ever allows me to finish it! I have always loved them going back into my youth – I have a particular fondness for American shows. The first one I can remember being addicted to was called ‘Highway Patrol’ with Broderick Crawford.
Peter’s Website: http://www.peterjames.com