Friday, 9 September 2016

Introducing Peter James | Books and Q&A!

Hello everyone, hope you are all well. I definitely think this is the most exciting blog post I have ever written! It is an honour to be given the opportunity to write this post and share with you, Peter James and his fantastic work. (DISCLAIMER: all opinions are my own)

Peter James is an international best selling author of crime fiction novels. Copies of his books have been incredibly successful across the globe, with 11 UK 'Sunday Times' number ones, number ones in countries such as Germany, Canada & Russia, as well as achieving the title of New York Times best-seller. If that wasn't enough to impress you, his latest book 'Love You Dead' went straight to number one immediately after publishing! This is just the latest installment in his award winning 'Roy Grace' series, which has sold 18 million copies world wide. The series centres around 'Detective Superintendent Roy Grace', his team members and the chilling crimes they are challenged with solving. Each book revolves around a different crime story, keeping the story lines fresh and enthralling. However, threads of Roy Grace's life, particularly his missing wife Sandy - or more importantly his goldfish 'Marlon' - are expertly woven into each novel.

My mum started reading Peter's books many years ago, and I seem to remember always being intrigued as to what was behind the macabre, mysterious front covers that I was faced with. I could always tell when she was reading another 'Roy Grace' novel, due to the running theme of 'Dead' always cropping up somewhere in the title! I had been told on a number of occasions that I would enjoy Peter's books due to my interest in crime, forensics, the paranormal and also the fact that some of my own stories (published on Wattpad) are within the thriller genre. It wasn't until January this year that I finally got a chance to sit down and read my first Peter James book. I decided to give 'The House on Cold Hill' a read whilst at University, a stand alone book, which doesn't belong to his popular Roy Grace series. Initially, I consciously decided not to read the first Roy Grace book 'Dead Simple' as I had a feeling that I would get far too engrossed in the series and have the obsession cause me to neglect my studies. The House on Cold Hill was brilliant by the way, I read it during breaks between revision for my Spring exams and found myself always looking forward to reading the next couple of chapters. It has a very clever storyline, with many twists and turns. I'd definitely recommend this book if you enjoy delving into the world of the paranormal or you are seeking a spine-chilling novel, that will have you nervously glancing over your shoulder whilst you read it.

 From reading that novel, I found Peter's writing both enjoyable and engaging. It is descriptive (illustrating evidence of his thorough research), yet captivating and easy to follow at the same time. My same impressions and feelings were reinforced when finally starting the Roy Grace series this summer. So far, I have greedily blitzed my way through a couple of the books, and I can hand on heart say, they are absolute page turners. There is the perfect concoction of suspense, humour, romance and mystery, all of which will leave you yearning for more. I also love the range of characters and the various personalities, some of whom remind me of people I know in my real life. In addition, it is fantastic to be able to read multiple character perspectives and 'step into their shoes' throughout certain chapters. This makes the story more riveting, as you are not just reading the protagonist's view point. I believe people from all ages will take pleasure in reading Roy Grace, as there is something for everyone to take away from each book. However, I must warn you that this series is not designed for the faint hearted! 

To sum up, the Roy Grace books are well, 'Dead Good' (future title perhaps?)! 

Peter and his wife Lara, were kind enough to send me some signed books and a few other lovely bits and bobs which I am very grateful for. You can see my Tweet about it here! I'm definitely going to wear my 'Team Roy Grace' cap when I visit Brighton & Hove next summer for my 21st birthday! In addition to the bundle, I was fortunate enough to ask Peter a few questions. I was delighted to receive some very intriguing and insightful responses, as you will read below. I'd especially suggest taking the time to read his answer to the first question, I guarantee that you will learn something new! Moreover, those of you who are aspiring writers like myself, take note of Peter's advice in the second question. Finally, if you're curious about the next Roy Grace book being published in May 2017, have a look at the snippet Peter has shared about the running theme for the new book. 

Q&A: 

Which book out of the Roy Grace series did you enjoy writing most and why?
I genuinely enjoy writing them all... but if I have to choose I would say the most fun was 'Love You Dead’.  The central character, Jodie Bentley, is a true “black widow”.  A woman in her mid-thirties, who has made it her mission in life to become very seriously rich, and who sets out to achieve this by targeting on the internet, snaring, marrying and then despatching rich, elderly men.  To achieve this without detection she has developed a number of false identities.  My research took me on a journey through the world of internet dating, into the complexities of the Financial Crimes Units of the City of London Police and of Sussex Police, into the Proceeds of Crime legislation which has had a devastatingly effective impact on the criminal world, giving the Police far-reaching new powers to seize the assets of criminals.  Prior to this legislation a criminal could make a calculated judgment on risk and reward, emerging from a long prison sentence to tax free riches.  But no longer. In the course of researching how to obtain a false identity, I had an entertaining, if bizarre lunch, with a former banknote, driving licence and passport forger, Dave Henty and the man who arrested him, a detective called Graham Bartlett, who rose through the ranks to become Commander of Brighton and Hove Police – and with whom I am now close friends and have co-written my first non-fiction book called ‘Death Come Knocking - Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton’.
Jodie Bentley is an expert in venomous creatures, and keeps a host of them in a secret room in her home in Brighton. To learn more about them I spoke to a number of experts in the UK and abroad, all of whom who told me the best place to learn about them would be to visit one of the regular reptile shows at Houten in Holland and Hamm in Germany.  So I did. Gulp!  I went to Houten to one of the shows, and what I learned rocked me to the core.
It was an exhibition centre the size of Olympia, filled with rows and rows of stands selling everything from Black Widow, Trapdoor, Redback and other charming spiders, to all kinds of snakes including Taipans, the world’s most venomous snake, and Saw Scaled Vipers, which kill the greatest number of people.  The reason being, it was explained cheerfully to me, is that the Taipan lives in remote areas, so rarely has contact with humans, but the Saw Scaled Viper, common in India, lives in populated areas.  It kills a staggering 58,000 people a year in India alone.  By comparison, 45,000 people die in car accidents and 15,000 are murdered, annually, in the USA.
The Saw Scaled Viper’s venom destroys the ability of its victims’ blood to coagulate, essentially liquidising their insides.  They start to bleed from every orifice, their eyes, nose, mouth and all others.  If the antidote is not introduced within two hours, the bite is almost always fatal. I met a survivor of a SSV bite, a very charismatic young man, who told me that he managed to get to a hospital where he could be treated within the requisite two hours.  But even now, six years on, several times a year he is bedridden with flu-like symptoms.  He was lucky. 
Then I made the mistake of chatting to a man selling scorpions. He told me that one of the most docile of all was an Arabian Flat Rock Scorpion, he produced one from a box and asked me to hold out my hand.  He then laid the creature on it.  It was huge, about the size of a small lobster, and felt warm.  I was shaking with terror!  ‘Nice scorpion!’  I said to it, repeatedly, unsure what else to say to the creature, and hoping it wouldn’t misinterpret my jangling nerves as some manifestation of hostility.  When finally he took it back, to my immense relief, he said, ‘It’s OK, if it had stung you it would be no worse than a bad bee sting!’  He then opened another clear plastic box – no bigger than a sandwich container, inside of which was another scorpion which he cheerfully told me could kill me in five days, in agony.
Another part of my research scared me in a very different way. I have a character in the book who makes a car bomb.  I spent a morning with an explosives expert who actually made a miniature one for me, and detonated it in front of my eyes – but fortunately at a safe distance! The scary thing is that anyone can buy all the materials they need, for what can be used as a terrorist bomb, from just three high-street retail outlets - an aquarium supplier, an art shop and an electrical goods store. 
Other areas of my research led me into the world of Undercover Operatives.  I learned something fascinating here.  For decades, if not longer, police and villains have played – and continue to do so – endless games of catch-up.  Mostly it is villains who lead until the police rumble their latest ruse. I visited one of the DNA labs many police forces in the UK use, and one of the technicians was showing me their latest advances in obtaining DNA.  I asked if television programmes such as CSI had helped criminals to become more forensically aware.  ‘Yes,’ she said.  ‘Undoubtedly. But fortunately for us they still make stupid mistakes.  They’ll commit a burglary, wearing a body stocking under their clothes, and surgical gloves, in order to avoid leaving any traces, but then throw their gloves in a bin – and we can get the DNA from the inside of the gloves!’
But there is one area where instead of playing catch-up, the police are constantly ahead of the game, and that is with Undercover Operatives, or UCs as they are known. I was very impressed to learn that wide variety of false identities are created and seeded in the press and on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, by the police, and with full family histories and connections with friends. So watch out, your new Facebook pal might just be a cop who is feeling your virtual collar...

Do you ever experience writers block? What advice would you give to aspiring writers who may be experiencing this?
I actually believe "writers block" is a myth, and used as an excuse!  I think it comes out of not having properly worked out an idea, and becomes a self-indulgent excuse.  "Oh my dears, I have writers block....".  Writers are writers and in my view can always write, if they want to.  I've come to a dead end sometimes during the course of writing a story, but when I've analyzed the problem, I realized that I hadn't thought it through.  A thirty minute walk around the block or across fields will normally do the trick!  What advice would you give aspiring writers?
The best possible advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read, read, read, and analyse, and write, write, write.  Writing is a craft, and any craft is improved with practice.  But most importantly is to read the most successful of the kind of works you would yourself like to write:  So if you want to be, for instance, a crime thriller writer, read the blockbusters of the past fifty years.  Analyse them, literally deconstruct them and try to figure out what made them so popular.  This is what I did when I started out.  I took the books I most admired, the ones I most wished I had written, and literally read them until I knew them inside out.

I'm yet to read the last few books in the series, but I've been informed that your most recent book, 'Love You Dead' (#12), seemed to tie up a few loose ends, conveying quite a definitive ending. What inspired you to carry on the series and what can we expect from book 13 next year?
Every now and then I feel you have to tie up some ends and open up new ones which is what I have done in Love You Dead. I think it’s really important to keep the series fresh.  I get inspired to continue with the series because of the enthusiasm of my readers, so as long as they want more Roy Grace I will continue to write more!  I am almost 400 pages in to my 13th Roy Grace novel which will be published May 2017 and it centres on a question I have pondered many times - what would it take for a decent man to turn into a killer?


If you'd like to find out more about Peter, or wish to contact him, then please follow the links provided below.

Peter's Social Media:
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If you do happen to read one of Peter's books, please include both Peter (@peterjamesuk) and myself (@veramyfarmigain a tweet. I am genuinely interested to hear your opinion and what book you are currently reading! I guarantee you, they will knock you dead...

Take Care, Emma 
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