Interview: Crime writer Peter James

EVERY reader loves a bit of crime and murder, and it's all the better if the blood is shed on your own doorstep.

Crime writer Peter James is a best-selling author of 16 novels, all set in and around East Sussex, which have attracted critical acclaim for both excitement and realism.

The Beddingham-based writer attributes this to the close relationship he has built up with Sussex Police, which has helped him to see the different way the police view the world.

His Sussex credentials are also pretty sound. He has lived in Beddingham for the past nine years, was born in Brighton and spent a large chunk of his life living just outside Ditchling.

He said: 'I've written a series of books based on Sussex CID and all of the books are set in and around the region, in Brighton, Lewes, Peacehaven, Worthing and Eastbourne.

'I've had enormous help from Sussex Police. Every two weeks or so I spend a day on patrol or go to a crime scene and talk with the officers involved.

'I regularly go to the headquarters in Malling or in John Street in Brighton, or Hollingbury.'

His relationship with the police stems from doing the right person a favour 10 years ago, and has been built on trust and also the fact some of the officers and detectives have become fans of his novels

Peter said: 'Around 10 years ago I lent Paul Whitehouse (a former Chief Constable of Sussex Police) my house for a charity do.

'In return he let me be a fly-on-the-wall for two weeks with the police and from there I've become friends with quite a few officers.

'I think the way I approach my books has also helped; I spend months researching them and I really do try to get things right.

'A lot of police hate the way they are portrayed in books or on TV because they never get it right.

'For example, there are always silly little mistakes, like the way scene of crimes officers always wear perfect white protective clothing but then Frost or Rebus come stomping through the scene in their brogues.'

Peter said he had based a number of characters on officers and detectives he had met over the years and this year he is the after-dinner speaker at the Sussex CID annual ball, where an auction is planned for the prize of being a character in his next novel.

Peter is currently hard at work on his forthcoming novel Dead Man's Footsteps.

The protagonist of the new novel fakes his own death following a cancelled business appointment at the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001

He reinvents himself and begins a new life but six years later Sussex Police are on his trail after his wife's body is found in a storm drain.