Author Peter James on the inspiration for his books and meeting Camilla
Author Peter James has said he loves “writing about things that could have happened to any of us”, and revealed that much of the inspiration for his novels comes from real-life experiences.
James, 73, is the author of a crime series following the investigations of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, which was adapted for the screen by ITV in 2021.
Ahead of the second series of detective drama Grace, James told the PA news agency that his novels and the subsequent series were inspired by real-life events and members of the police force he knows.
The first two-hour instalment of the second series is based on James’s novel Looking Good Dead.
Speaking about the idea behind the book, he told PA: “With Looking Good Dead, the real source of that came about 15 years ago before I wrote the book.
“I got called by a policeman, who I knew… and he said, ‘would you come and look at a piece of video footage Sussex Police have seized in a raid’. He said this is very confidential and what I want to know is if this person was acting or not.
“And it was a young girl, being stabbed to death, and I said I don’t think this is acting, this looks horribly real to me.”
James said the “snuff movie” footage “stuck in (his) head” and he decided to use it as inspiration for his novel.
He said he toned down the level of violence as he prefers his writing to be “thrilling and dark at times, but not in a way that will gross or freak anyone out”.
James added that the inspiration for Grace came from a policeman, Detective Dave Gaylor, who visited him after he was burgled many years ago and the pair have worked together since.
He said: “My central character, Roy Grace, is based on a real-life former policeman who I work very closely with on the books.
“He reads every 150 pages and tells me how my police characters really think.
“And we’re now very good mates – when I got married he was my best man and he really helps me get the authenticity of Roy Grace.”
Despite the crime-ridden and often gruesome inspiration for James’s novels, his fan base is far-reaching.
He has global book sales of more than 21 million and his works have been translated into 38 languages.
He told PA that he heard the Duchess of Cornwall was among fans of the Roy Grace series, but he could not quite believe it.
He said: “It was extraordinary because you’re used to getting bullshit, you know, people saying, ‘I love your book’, and so which book do you like best? And they haven’t actually read it, they’re just trying to be polite.
“But about six years ago a friend of mine emailed me and said go and buy today’s Mail, and there was a photograph of Camilla sitting in her library with about five of my Roy Grace books behind her head.
“So I wrote her a letter and she wrote back and said ‘I love your books’.”
During the filming of the second series of Grace, Camilla visited James on set, where he says she talked about the books with “incredible detail” and asked him questions he did not know the answer to.
“She remembered some things about the books far better than I can,” he said.
The second series of Grace will air on ITV on April 24.