Peter James discusses his latest Roy Grace book in Worthing

Number-one bestselling Brighton-based author Peter James marks the publication of his 13th Roy Grace novel Need You Dead with a talk at Worthing's Connaught Theatre on Thursday, June 1 at 7.30pm.

Peter James
Peter James

Published by Pan Macmillan in hardback, Need You Dead tells of Lorna Belling, a woman desperate to escape her marriage from hell. She falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds out, even those you consider closest to you may not be who they say they are, and a chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything. When the body of a woman is found in the bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first, it looks like an open and shut case but Grace is hesitant as ever to make assumptions and as the investigation lengthens so does the list of men with motives for killing Lorna. As well as dealing with one of his most mysterious cases yet, Grace must cope with a new addition to the family. Following the death of his ex-wife, the ten-year-old he didn’t know about is moving to Brighton to live with his dad.

“I certainly enjoyed writing it,” says Peter. “It was the first time I had written an almost traditional-type whodunnit. I didn’t know if it would work. I tend to write books where you know whodunnit and it becomes like a cat and mouse as the police try to catch him, but with this one, there were multiple suspects. I try to be different with every book I write. I try to raise the bar each time.

“But I used to love Agatha Christies. She had an amazing ability with nine suspects or whatever, but I thought nine suspects was probably too many for the way that I write. I do love the writers from that era though, where you get the dead body in the library with chapter one. That was very much the tradition that Conan Doyle was part of, that Dorothy L Sayers wrote through. But in a way the writer that inspired me was Graham Greene who changed all that when he wrote Brighton Rock. It was the first crime novel where the victim was still alive at the end of chapter one.

“I was very much influenced by the English crime writers of the golden age, but around about the time I discovered Brighton Rock, I started discovering the American writers, the hard-bitten ones, writers like Ed McBain. They wrote thrillers. Agatha Christie wrote elegant books, but they were not really thrillers. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot as characters are still the same at the end as they were at the beginning.”

Not so Peter’s Roy Grace: “Part of that comes from the many years I have spent with the police, getting to know them and realising that if you are a police officer and seeing horrible things, then it is a two-way street. It affects the lives of police officers. Their work on the case gets reflected back on their own lives. With homicide, it becomes personal. The detectives get to feel that they know the victim and they get to know the victim’s family who are often a very big part of the investigation, and the police are also affected by their own private lives. Really good detectives have a deeply-caring side to them…”

It is also important for Peter to keep up to date. Peter bases his books upon real-life experiences he has witnessed through shadowing the Sussex Police and often uses their techniques in his novels. For Need You Dead, amongst other topics, Peter learned about super recognisers – and delved deep into the world of cybercrime.

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