A packed audience of fans of bestselling Brighton based crime author, Peter James gathered this evening in Exeter Street Community Hall Brighton to hear a superb interview with BBC Sussex Radio’s Danny Pike.
Born to a Jewish mother, educated at Charterhouse Peter speaks as eloquently as he writes and his knowledge of Brighton, his birthplace is second to none.
With a sharp mind, a quick wit and candid in his thoughts Peter had some gritty stories to tell; stories which inspired his novels and the shaping of his characters.
There was no beating about the bush. With his extensive knowledge of policing in Brighton gained through observation and extensive interviews with officers and criminals he told us exactly what he thought. “The Tories” he said “are traditionally the party of law and order but this Government is anti Police and dangerous and Theresa May is a fucking lunatic.” “The Police are good people who hold civilised life together but the budget here in Sussex has been slashed by £50 million in the past 5 years.” “Sussex Police are desperately under resourced.”
There are 12 homicides a year in Sussex, compared to 25 gun shot deaths in a quiet weekend in Los Angeles.
Asked about what he thought of Brighton when he was growing up he said he never admitted to living there. In the 1950s it was a “sinister, seedy and tacky town” but today it is “the coolest place in the UK.” and he’s proud to live there. And its’ dark undertone of violence, he said makes it an ideal place for him, as a crime writer!
The definitive book on Brighton ‘Brighton Rock’ changed his life. He read it at 14. “It broke all the rules on crime writing.” He thought that to write crime you had to set Agatha Christie style scenes in country manor houses.
Peter attributes his success to the fact that there was a shortage of crime writers at the time. His first novels made very little money and then Roy Grace came on the scene.
‘Dead Simple’ featuring a guy who is buried alive on his stag night was inspired by his own stag night experience in 1979 of being left naked on top of a pillar box, getting arrested and spending a night in jail.
‘Perfect People’ was inspired by a meeting with the head of brain genetics in the USA. He visited a clinic offering parents the chance to choose their baby’s level of empathy, hair colour, elimination of disease genes and he realised unless he wrote about it quick science would overtake him. “We struggle to keep up with science. It moves forward very quickly.”
Peter has interviewed criminals in Lewes Prison. One a burglar with 177 convictions told him that after the first stint in prison he realised it wasn’t worth burgling council flats in Mousecoombe; he’d get the same time if he burgled houses on Dyke Avenue. ‘What’s your dream?’ Peter asked. His answer was to stay in prison where it was warm and the food nice.
Patricia Cornwell bores him rigid and he loved ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’
Disclaimer: I was at the meeting and hopefully recorded his words accurately!