‘Stop Them Dead’ is the latest in the detective series from UK’s No1 selling, Sussex author Peter James. Kairen Kemp caught up with him for a chat.
How long have you been writing the Roy Grace series?
I started writing the first Roy Grace novel back in 2003. That was ‘Dead Simple’. It was published in 2005. Actually I’m halfway through the 20th at the moment.
It seems to me that starting with a shock from something normal, like just waking up in the middle of the night or just before you go to bed is almost like a signature for you, in all the books. Would you agree?
I’m delighted to hear you say that. I guess my publishers describe what I write as being the kind of sinister every day. I write the kind of books I want to read. The way we read today is completely different to the way we read 150 years ago. Back in the old days, you know, there wasn’t all the demands on our time. I’m very conscious that the person who is reading my book has also got a computer with the whole Internet on it. That person’s also got games. They’ve got television. There’s radio. If they keep their attention, put my book down, and they could get absorbed in something else and it’s almost like I’m determined to keep people reading from the moment they pick up the book.
What Inspires you?
I love learning stuff. I’m a sponge for knowledge. I love taking a subject like in ‘Stop Them Dead’ which I really wanted to look into after seeing an article in the Argus about a woman who was mugged in Hove Park and her dog was stolen and it was worth £5000. Losing a dog is it’s like losing a child I could not imagine how my wife and I would feel if that happened to us. I met Joe Shiner (Chief Constable of Sussex), the following week, just for a catch up meeting and I said “what was that all about?” She said that was the tip of the iceberg and throughout the UK crime gangs are making more money out of dogs than drugs and that they’re operating by lifting, stealing dogs, bugging people, breaking in and by illegally importing. Sometimes it’s just a simple thing. I remember a couple of books back in ‘Left You Dead’. I’ve often been shopping and I thought what would happen if my wife got out, the car, went into a shop and never came back out again? What would I do? And that was the idea for that.
When you’re writing. Do you share the progress with anyone and if you do, with whom?
Two people. My wife, Lara, who’s a really good about character, and she’ll say I think that character’s not quite right or whatever. The other is David Gayla, my real-life Roy Grace.
So now you’ve been turned into theatre and TV. How much input do you have into those pieces of work, or do you just hand them over?
With Grace I was determined to keep an element of control so ITV have been great. I’m involved in the casting, the scripts and I’m consulted all the time, every draft. I remember the day they rang me and said “what do you think about Roy Grace being played by John Simm?” and I just wanted to bite their hands off. If I’d had to do an identity kit when I first created him they would have come up with John Simm
So it’s been a really happy experience for me and you know they’re doing really well, which is great. With the theatre I’m also very involved literally from the start, through casting. Once it gets to rehearsals. I usually see the first read through and then probably I go to the dress rehearsal. And in between Dave Gayla steps in getting the police aspects right as he does in the TV Grace.
My favorite murderer of yours is Jodie Bentley in ‘Love You Dead’. She’s absolutely horrendous. Who is yours?
Yeah, she’s one of them. I’m glad you say that you love her. I’ve always liked Tooth, the hitman character (‘You Are Dead’ and ‘Dead Man’s Grip’). I’m actually writing one at the moment. In the next book, I have a killer who I really like. He’s a hired killer, but he just creates accidental death.
‘Stop Them Dead’ is out now and ‘Twist Of The Knife’, updated short stories from Peter James, featuring collaborations with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid is out 11th November.