I’m delighted to be able to welcome Peter James to the blog. Author of the Roy Grace series of detective thriller novels as well as stand alone books such as Alchemist, Perfect People, and Host. Peter has sold millions of copies of his books and has had them translated into 36 different languages. When he’s not writing, Peter enjoys skiing, tennis and motor racing. Thank you for agreeing to take part today Peter, let’s begin the interview.
You say that everything changes when you read. What was the first book you read as a child that changed something for you?
When I was 14 I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and this book totally changed my life. It is quite simply the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer, the first time I read it, as a teenager. It is also the inspiration behind my setting the Roy Grace series in Brighton. This timeless novel is both a thriller and a crime novel, although police play a small part and the story is almost entirely told through the eyes of the villains and two women who believe they can redeem them. Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, that makes you feel you know them inside out and have probably met them, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable. It is for me an almost perfect novel. It has one of the most grabbing opening lines ever written (Hale knew, within thirty minutes of arriving in Brighton, that they meant to kill him.”), and one of the finest last lines – very clever, very tantalizing and very, very “noir” – yet apt. Green captures so vividly the dark, criminal underbelly of Brighton and Hove, as relevant now as when the book was first written, and the characters are wonderful, deeply human, deeply flawed and tragic. And yet, far more than being just an incredibly tense thriller, Greene uses the novel to explore big themes of religious faith, love and honour.” And additionally, a bonus, It is also unique for being one of the few novels where the film adaptation is so good it complements rather than reduces the book. But it is not just Brighton Rock – I learn so much from Green’s writing. I don’t think any writer before or after him has been able to create such vivid characters with so few words and description.
You were there at the beginning of the digital age of books. What do you think of how the industry has grown since then?
In 1994 my novel Host became the first ever electronic novel and I was pilloried around the world, accused of killing the novel! I do think that as e-books become cheaper they will become even more popular, but personally, I still love the smell and touch of printed books and they will be around for our lifetimes and way beyond. There has been a lot of fear about ebooks, and there is of course justification in this because of the fear of piracy and the terrible damage done to the record industry, but I think this is different with books and the culture is different. Many people, for the foreseeable future will continue to read printed books. But for others it has opened up huge new potential for reading. For instance one of my fans was a soldier out in Afghanistan. Thanks to his Kindle he could take dozens of books with him out on operations in the desert, which he could never have done before as he could not have physically carried them. I have many elderly fans who like the fact they can increase the font size on their ebooks. And I have had dozens of emails from fans who have bought my recent novels electronically, but who tell me they have also bought the hardcover version to have on their bookshelves as collector items. Personally, although I have almost all of the e-reader gadgets, in general I much prefer to hold a printed book in my hand.