I have the most amazing character spotlight guest today!
A few weeks ago, in one of the Facebook book clubs I am a member of, a lady asked who Peter James was and whether everyone thought she should start reading the ‘Ray Grace’ books! Needless to say the poor lady was inundated with responses from the group, mainly people showing shock that she had never heard of this wonderful author or his amazing character.
It dawned on me then though that actually, not everyone will have heard of him, there are new readers to the crime genre all the time and how would they know where to start with so many brilliant books and authors around?
It was with this in mind that Lara (Peter’s wife) and I decided that it might be a good idea to ‘introduce’ Roy Grace to those who may not have heard of him yet, so here goes, I’ll hand over to Peter . . .
Good morning Emma, while you get the coffee sorted I’m going to introduce Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. A senior homicide detective in the Sussex Major Crime Team, also in charge of cold cases for the county.
When we meet him in ‘Dead Simple’ [book one in the series] he is coming up to his 39th birthday, and we learn that ten years earlier his wife Sandy, who he idolised, had vanished off the face of the earth. He has been struggling to move on, but now starts to take an interest in Cleo, who runs the Brighton and Hove mortuary. Over the course of the next eleven books, he falls in love with Cleo, they marry and have a son, Noah.
When did you create Roy?
I was approached in 2002 by my publishers, Macmillan, to create a new fictional detective. Years earlier, in 1995, I had been introduced to a young Detective Inspector called David Gaylor, a rising star in Sussex CID. I went into his office and found it full of plastic crates bulging with manila folders. I asked him he was moving offices and he replied with a sardonic smile: “No, these are my dead friends.” I thought for some moment that I had met a total weirdo! Then he explained to me that in additional to his current homicide investigation work, he had been tasked with reopening cold cases and applying new forensic developments to them. He said something that really touched me: “Each of these crates contains the principal case files of an unsolved murder: I am the last chance each of the victims has for justice, and I am the last chance each of their families have for closure.” I loved the deeply human aspects of this man. During his work he saw the most terrible sights imaginable (and unimaginable) during his work, yet he retained a calm gentle humanity – and this aspect is one of the key characteristics of almost every homicide detective I have met: They are calm, kind and very caring people. In very many cases they develop a close relationship with the victim’s loved ones, and solving the crime becomes personal to them. It is the reason why so often, even years after they have from the force, that many detectives still continue to work away on any case they could not solve during their career. FBI founder, J Edgar Hoover, said: “No greater honour will ever be bestowed on an officer, nor a more profound duty imposed on him, than when he or she is entrusted with the investigation of the death of a human being.” At this first encounter with DI David Gaylor, he asked me about the novel I was then working on, and immediately started coming up with creative suggestions involving the policing aspects – and other aspects too. I realised that to be a good homicide investigator you had to have not only a very analytical mind, but also a very creative one. This is because the solving of every major crime is a massive puzzle, usually with a key bit missing. From that day onwards, I would discuss the plots of my next novels in advance with him. So, when Macmillan asked me about creating this new fictional detective, David had risen to become Detective Chief Superintendent in Sussex Police, in charge of Major Crime Reviews. I asked him how he would feel about becoming a fictional character – and he loved the idea! He now reads every hundred pages as I am writing, and gives me his view on how a real detective in Roy Grace’s position would think.
Did you write the book to accommodate Roy or Roy to accommodate the book?
I initially wrote Dead Simple to accommodate the character but then subsequently the character has taken over.
And my gosh has he taken over! What do you like most about Roy?
Like my real-life Roy Grace, I like his very human side. But I also find it interesting that his job is to solve mysteries, and yet he has his own mystery that he can’t solve. I feel like he’s my mate, and that he’d be good fun to spend an evening with, but more seriously, if ever I was unlucky enough to have one of my family murdered he’s the man I’d want running the investigation.
Daft question now but what do you like least about Roy?
There is nothing I actually dislike about him at all, I do feel sorry for him that he has found it so difficult to put Sandy behind him and move on and the complications that leaves him in his relationship with Cleo – but I guess that is part of what makes him so very human.
He is very human, I think that having the Sandy part of the story makes him more so. Did your early readers/editorial team like Roy to start with or did you have to change him in any way?
They liked him absolutely instantly, and so did my readers, he seemed to touch a nerve. Within days of ‘Dead Simple’ coming out I started getting inundated with amusing emails speculating what might have happened to Sandy. With other books in the series, I’ve had many readers say they are gutted that Roy hasn’t appeared even more through the story – and that for me is a wonderful feeling – to have created someone people have so taken to their hearts.
Does he have any similarities with anyone real?
There is a lot of me in Roy and I’ll often use him as a mouthpiece for my views, and as I mention above I draw a lot from David Gaylor.
What are your plans for Roy?
I absolutely love writing the Roy Grace series, and as long as my wonderful readers keep enjoying them, I have every intention of going on for many more books to come.
Now that is music to my ears! Would you be friends in real life?
Absolutely yes! We like the same music and we are both petrol heads!
Thank you so much for joining me today Peter, it’s been great getting to know more about the conception of such an iconic and wonderful character. I think DS Roy Grace is one of the most brilliant fictional characters of our time and I simply adore the series!
Peter is also really active on social media and is brilliant in terms of interacting with fans so go check him out at the following places! I adore his ‘pets’ Instagram, I mean, there aren’t that many places in the world where you can see llamas wearing baseball caps!!! And his YouTube channel is fantastic for fans and writers alike.