8th October, 2018
Review by James Robson
Peter James is an international bestselling novelist, with global book sales of over 19 million copies to date. At his event ‘An Evening with Peter James’, fans of his gripping crime novels, such as myself, were treated to various stories from Peter’s lengthy writing career of almost 30 years, as well as a discussion about the inspiration behind his most beloved detective series.
The evening began with a reading from Peter from his most recent novel Absolute Proof, which instantly became a number one bestseller. Peter’s gripping storyline caused silence across the room as he began reading the latest edition to his Roy Grace detective series. This is the book Peter is most proud of in his career, due to the large amount of research that went into it (such as spending five days in a monastery in Greece in order to learn more about what life as a monk is really like). This new novel is heavily influenced by religion, which allowed the audience to hear Peter’s own views on religious beliefs. Although since leaving school he has been an atheist, the research into religion for this new novel has changed his belief to that of a higher intelligence behind the universe, such as a God or creator.
For Peter, research and experience are paramount for creating a decent novel. Spending time with the actual police force was the highlight of his research, as he entertained the audience with his comic stories from following the Brighton police and confronting gangs (which Peter admits he was clueless about). Having travelled all around the world for research to destinations including Albania, China and Greece, Peter has found that his hometown of Brighton is the perfect criminal environment and therefore the basis for his Roy Grace crime series. Although different cities have different influences for crime (such as inner-city London for knife crime), Brighton is famed for its smuggling from overseas, due to having major seaports at either side of the town.
When asked by a member of the audience about where he sourced his material for the crime novels, Peter replied by discussing how he always tries to write books in the perspectives of the villain, victim and the police. He often gives talks at local prisons so that he can gain ideas and information for future novels.
Having visited prisons for both genders, Peter found that women’s prisons were the scariest due to not being categorised by risk the way men’s prisons are; however, this only provided greater inspiration for Peter, as he recalled the time he interviewed a prisoner who poisoned her husband and mother-in-law.
To begin a novel, Peter stated that he plans a storyline and follows the fictional plot as planned, but often tries to avoid the general crime plots found in most novels or dramas, such as ‘detective with a drinking problem or failing marriage’, which Peter finds extremely cliché.
Despite having a 30-year career in crime writing, as well as winning over 40 awards, Peter doesn’t plan on ending his Roy Grace detective series yet, and has already announced another book planned for release next year.
As well as Roy Grace heading for television in 2020, Peter also announced that his novel House on Cold Hill has been adapted into a play and should be hitting theatres in the North-East in March next year.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.