Peter James’ Brighton-based Roy Grace detective series has now sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. Want You Dead, the tenth novel in the series, was released last summer; the 11th will be out this year.
In the meantime, his first-ever Grace, Dead Simple, takes to the stage on a tour which brings it to Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre from April 28-May 2, with Gray O’ Brien (Coronation Street) as Detective Roy Grace.
Michael Harrison thinks he has it all; great career, good friends and a beautiful fiancée. But when his stag-night prank goes horribly wrong, Michael finds himself alone and staring death in the face. As time runs out and the terror grows, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace tries to solve his mysterious disappearance, but begins to fear that Michael will never be found in time.
The show, receiving rave reviews, is the latest glorious chapter for Peter and his creation, and Peter expects plenty more to come. Now in the theatre and with every prospect of film and TV, it has been one of the great publishing phenomena of recent years: “It surprises me all the time,” Peter admits, “but I think maybe I can explain some of it. People just like the character of Roy Grace. There is a huge amount of police and crime drama and fiction, and the thing that I do differently to almost any other is the depth of research. I have always been a stickler for it. I am a great believer in research, and it is that research that underpins the writing. Readers have got smart over the years. Today everybody has got access to the internet. There is stuff going on, and they can look it up. I think people can sense if something does not feel authentic. I was in New Zealand recently, and a radio presenter introduced me saying ‘This is the guy that has got a reputation for getting it right!’ I was very pleased.
“I am also lucky that I have got a very good relationship with the police. The police like helping me because they feel that I will show them accurately, if not perhaps always in a favourable light. I have got my homophobic, racist Norman Potting (in the Roy Grace series). But I think the police feel that I really do show what their life is like. There are a huge number of police officers that shout at the TV when crime dramas come on. I don’t think they do that with my books!
“I know that it has got to be good. When I read a book, I am not a particularly-fast reader, and I know that it is going to be an investment of a huge amount of my time. It could take me days or even weeks to finish, so I want to know that it is authentic.”
Peter takes pride too in showing the positive face of policing. Also, it’s about showing the toughness of a police officer’s lot. As he says, there is probably not a police officer in the land who hasn’t put his life on the line at one stage or another.
“Recently I did a 12-hour shift with a duty inspector in Brighton. At seven o’clock in the morning, we were called to a cot death. Two hours later, we were at a house where an elderly couple had been swindled out of their life’s savings. At 1pm we were at a house where a seven-year-old had called the police saying ‘Mummy and daddy are trying to kill each other!”
Again, that’s the kind of authentic touch that Peter draws on in his Grace series...
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