Peter James – Ask The Author

Peter James has had 11 consecutive Sunday Times No 1s,published in 37 languages, as well as being a New York Times bestseller. His DS Roy Grace crime novels have sold 18 million copies worldwide. Prior to becoming a full-time author, he was responsible for 25 movies. In 1994 Penguin published his novel, Host, on two floppy discs as the world’s first electronic novel. His novels have won numerous awards, most recently the coveted 2016 CWA Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence, and he was publicly voted by WHSmith readers The Best Crime Author Of All Time.

Congratulations on an incredibly successful career so far, including 13 Roy Grace Novels and 21 other novels and according to my sources (Wikipedia) 36 Awards.  Two questions here… where do you keep all your awards and in 2010 you were shortlisted for the Galaxy British Book Awards for Dead Like You.  Now I am sure you know how much I LOVE Galaxy Ripples… do you have any contacts there who can send me a box?

Hi Tracy, thanks so much. At the moment the awards are scattered around my office and home, but we are planning to build a new office and I’m going to make sure I’m going to have a very special area for the awards because they mean so much to me. Unfortunately, Galaxy no longer sponsor the awards – shame – as I’d be after a box myself!

The 13th Roy Grace book Need You Dead is out later this year (May), what can you tell me about it and how many more Roy Grace books are planned?

Here’s a little insight into ‘Need You Dead’…. Lorna Belling, a hairdresser who works from home, is desperate to escape her marriage from her abusive husband, Corin.  Eighteen months ago she began an affair with a charismatic lover, Greg, and they have a secret love nest, a tiny flat on the seafront in Brighton.  For over a year now Greg, who is married, has been promising Lorna that he will leave his wife, Belinda, and their apparently loveless marriage and make a new life with Lorna, taking her away from her vile husband.  But Greg is constantly coming up with one excuse after another as to why it is not the right moment to end his marriage.  Finally, he tells Lorna he is going on holiday to the Maldives with his wife, who is recovering from a family bereavement, and is going to break the news to her there.

A few weeks later Lorna is cutting a female client’s hair, and the woman is excitedly telling her about her holiday in the Maldives.  She shows Lorna some pictures on her phone, and Lorna is astonished to see a very loved-up couple in the bar with her client and her client’s husband.  The man, for sure is Greg.  Except as her client tells her, his name is something quite different.  And his wife is not called Belinda at all.  Finding out that “Greg” has lied to her consistently for eighteen months, about who he is, what he does, she flies into a fury.  And she decides when “Greg” comes to their next assignment, at their flat, later that day, she is going to confront him, and threaten to ruin this love rat’s life.

When Lorna’s body is found in the bath, in her flat, the following day Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.   There is an expression in the homicide world that Grace often uses to his colleagues.  Think the unthinkable.  Now for perhaps the first time in his career, he is finding that he himself has to think this very same thing.

Re the number of Roy Grace books I have planned… I have no definite number in mind at all – I will continue writing them so long as my fans are enjoying them. I have the next three in the series already outlined.

One of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE books is PERFECT PEOPLE which was terrifying and gripping at the same time and I personally think it could be a fantastic movie.  In the book John and Naomi have a child through a genetist as they both carry a deadly gene.  My question is if the technology and science was available today for you to “tweak” some of your abilities, skills, personality traits – what would you change now?

Thank you, it’s one of my favourite books I have written. I’d like to be better at tennis and not be so scared of heights! But seriously, I think changing anything other than the genes for devastating illnesses that can totally blight a person’s life is a dangerous thing.

We have met a couple of times in Harrogate (photos above) and you are always so charming and such a gentleman – but I want to know what really gets you angry?   Is there a side of Peter James the public don’t see that you can tell me about?

Litter louts – if I see someone throw a food carton out of a car window or just toss something on the pavement I see red! I even once nearly got myself eaten up when I was so angry about a man emptying his ashtray out of his car window – I scooped up the butts and threw them back in!

You recently married the gorgeous Lara – Congratulations to you both.  What did you do for your stag night and were you worried that you might be buried in a coffin for a laugh?

Thanks for the lovely words about Lara, I played it very safe on my stag night and even had my father-in-law along. In keeping with my passion for motor racing we hired a local go karting circuit for the afternoon for 25 of us and then had dinner in my favourite restaurant in Brighton, English’s. We moved onto a local bar called Bohemia, drinking far too much, then carried on drinking at home with my about to be father-in-law and brother-in-law until the small hours!

You have a new book called Absolute Proof due out in Oct 2017.  Can you tell me more about it please?

It is a book I have been researching for 23 years following a phone call I received out of the blue in 1993 from a gentleman claiming he had absolute proof of God’s existence and he’d been told an author called Peter James could help him get taken seriously. Absolute Proof is a thriller about what it would take to have absolute proof of God’s existence, and what would happen to someone who claimed to have it. I’m really enjoying writing it and I’m hugely excited for my fans to read it.

When you were at film school you worked as Orson Welles’ house cleaner.  What did that involve and did you have to wear an apron and rubber gloves?

I did yes! I needed to earn some money to take a rather posh girl out to dinner and I saw an advert in a newsagent’s window saying ‘House cleaner wanted part-time, 10 shillings an hour’ (about £5 in today’s money) ‘Apply to Mrs Welles’ at an address in Fulham. I did indeed have to wear rubber gloves and do full menial tasks. It wasn’t until I’d been there a couple of days that I’d realised that Mrs Welles was actually Mrs Orson Welles, when the great man himself walked in through the front door!

Going back to Roy Grace, all your 13 titles have the word DEAD in them.  How do you come up with the titles and would you ever NOT use the word DEAD in a Roy Grace novel?

Some of the titles come really easily and some we struggle with. On one I think we even ran a Facebook competition! We have a titles board in the office (The ‘Dead’ board), and with more and more books in the series the harder it becomes. At the moment I would be loathed to put out a Roy Grace book without ‘Dead’ in the title as it has become a kind of mascot. I am always really careful to try not to use a book title that someone else has used – so it is tricky!!

You are a very busy man with appearances worldwide (Woking, Dartford, New York) planned for this year – have you ever had any strange fan requests or groupies?

Yes!  I think the strangest request has been when I was giving an after-dinner speech at a very smart do – a Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve Dinner – when I was passed a note asking if I would sign a lady’s breast. I dutifully did this with her husband standing next to her – appreciative – and Lara took the photograph!

Finally,  I know you are an incredible supporter and mentor to authors everywhere, is there any particular books or authors we should keep an eye out for in 2017?

Thank you, I am always grateful to the ones who helped me when I was first starting out and I try to do the same.

One book I read recently and really enjoyed was ‘The Girl Before’ by J P Delaney. The story begins with a young woman, Jane, who comes across an incredible rental bargain.  It is a stunning, ultra-minimalist, architect house which ordinarily would have been way beyond her budget.  But there is a catch:  It comes with a long list of bizarre, controlling, rules.  But hey ho, she thinks, it is a bargain!  Worth putting up with the rules.

Slowly and relentlessly after moving in, she makes the discovery that the previous tenant, also a young woman, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and she starts to wonder if she is now a living a re-run of this girl before her. Slowly in a series of very clever and unseen twists, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined.  This is a wonderful portrayal of psychological obsession at its creepy best. A great thriller is one that instantly hooks you, in the very first line and never lets you go.  I picked up this elegant, increasingly creepy, urban – and urbane – thriller, by chance, knowing nothing about it and found it utterly compelling and very satisfying.  I loved its very clever premise and brilliantly drawn characterisations.  Reading it felt at times like looking through a prism at a very subtly skewed and disturbing tableau

Two other interesting authors to watch this year are Susie Steiner and Ruth Ware, and I’ve heard great things about Tim Weaver but I’ve not yet read him.

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Footnote:  One week after Peter sent me this interview I received this surprise package:

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