Crime novelist Peter James insists he will never tire of writing about Detective Superintendent Roy Grace
At first glance, the genial Peter James doesn’t look like he would write these gritty police procedurals. James has, however, written 25 novels including novels featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace from Brighton. In town to promote the ninth Roy Grace novel, Dead Man’s Time (Pan Macmillan) at the British Library, James talks about Grace who has found closure with his first wife, Sandy, who vanished 10 years before.
James says he included the Sandy track because he wanted to explore the fact that one never really knows another person. “For Grace it was a perfect marriage but not so for Sandy. Also when you are married to a policeman especially a homicide detective like Grace, it is all consuming. It is very difficult on the partner.”
Though the books from Dead Simple in 2005 to Dead Man’s Time cover a span of eight years, in book time, it starts in May when Roy is 39 and the latest one is set in October, when Grace has celebrated his 40th birthday.
There are many reasons for this. “While each of the books is set forward a year culturally, I didn’t want Roy to age a year with each book. Rankin did that and his detective Rebus has reached retirement age. Also I was describing Roy’s relationship with Cleo. The first few months of a relationship are important and I didn’t want to rush through that.”
The new book, which will be out next year, Want you Dead has a huge shocker in the Sandy track. “I finished the last two chapters on the flight here.” And does he have any writerly quirks? “No, once I am writing I like to get on with it. Yes, if I am writing in the evening, I like to have a drink. If I am writing at home, I like to listen to music. For the first half of the book I like to listen to jazz and pop—I like the Kinks and for the last 3rd, I like to listen to opera. ”
In Dead Like You, like in Dead Man’s Time James presents two time frames. “I like to link the past and present. I like to explore the idea of what time really is.”
For research, James had a policeman friend in New York, Pat Lanigan—who incidentally has a cameo in the book. “His grand uncle, Dinny Meeham, was the leader of the White Hand Gang, the Irish Mafia between 1910 and 1920 in New York. I got a lot of information from Pat.”
While James gets some information from the net, he “prefers to talk to real people.” About Grace making an appearance in India, James says he is working on it. “Policemen travel because criminals travel. I haven’t figured out which city Grace will visit in India.”
While Grace’s small screen debut is in still on the drawing board, there are plans to make the very first novel, Dead Simple, a feature film. “The wish list of actors to play Grace includes Clive Owen, Michael Fassbender and Dominic West with Emily Blunt for the female lead.”
James is active on facebook and twitter (www.peterjames.com). “I love the engagement with the readers and have also got help from them. For instance, for one of my books I needed information on how to pick a lock. I put it up on twitter and I had former burglar give me detailed information on how to pick a lock, the kind of tools to use…”
There is a lot of attention paid to the detective’s clothes. Branson is a sharp dresser and he takes Roy shopping for some cool threads. “Lot of detectives are smart dressers. They take real care to be fashionable. They are not dandified but they tend to dress smartly. If you walk into a police station, you will see a lot of cool looking people. ”
James insists he has never been consumed by Grace. “No, I like him a lot. Whenever I write a Roy Grace novel, I feel like I am meeting old friends. There is a lot of me in him. I have also been writing other stuff. Like my collection of short stories, Short Shockers, and The Perfect Murder will be staged on January 8. The novels allow me to explore themes I am interested in. Like for Dead Man’s Time, I wrote about antiques, which is the beating heart of Brighton’s underworld. I was also interested in the gangs of New York in the beginning of the 20th century. As long as I enjoy writing the novels and readers enjoy them I will continue.”