Brighton based crime novelist Peter James is a man of many facets. Screenwriter, producer, businessman, wearer of natty red socks (red for energy) and the victim himself of crime. Burgled shortly after his wedding, Peter James in one fell swoop managed to disencumber himself of some seriously naff wedding presents and meet the detecting officer who proved to be a gateway into the tight-knit community of the police.
The relationships he’s built with the Sussex Police force have proved invaluable in populating his novels, lending them an unprecedented level of authenticity and real-life detail. His central character Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is based on Detective Superintendent Dave Gaylor and he draws many of his plots from true crime stories. Brighton acts as a unique back-drop to all this criminal mayhem and is for James the perfect setting, with its dubious history as the ultimate “shag pad” resort ( I’ve never heard the Brighton Pavilion, love-nest of George IV referred to in these terms but I’ve got to say I love it!), playground for London’s criminal fraternity and recreational-drug-using partytown par excellence.
Host Bookman Beattie skillfully put Peter James through his paces but stumped him when he asked James what the trickiest question he’d been asked in an interview was. Aaah, wheels within wheels! James was on more certain ground when it came to the old chestnut of literary fiction versus genre fiction. James believes that “if Shakespeare was writing today he’d be writing crime” and he deeply resents the poor man’s literature tag associated with mystery fiction. The police, he argues, are exposed to life and death in the raw and these interactions with both the best and worst aspects of humanity give unique insights into the modern world and the human condition. The stuff of great fiction.
James is in the process of bringing DS Grace to the big screen. The road to celluloid has been nothing if not bumpy. BBC Scotland were keen as haggis to produce a TV series but this involved removing Grace from the mean streets of Brighton and relocating him to … Aberdeen. Good grief: I’m pretty sure there are no shag-pads in the granite city!
There has been some speculation that Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame was to take on the central role but Peter James confirmed that this is not the case. Ladies of a certain age everywhere will no doubt take a moment to wipe away a tear (or am I speaking for myself here?)
Hungry for more? Never fear dear blog-readers, I’m the lucky little librarian that got to meet with Peter James. Keep an eye out for my interview in full, coming soon to a blog near you.