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Meet the author: Writer Peter James on new book Left You Dead and his love of Scotland

© DAVID FERGUSONPeter James
Peter James

Nearly nine million people watched the debut ITV adaptation of Dead Simple, the first in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series.

With the 17th novel – Left You Dead – now out, author Peter James, 72, reveals he was approached to make the show in Scotland years before it finally hit TV screens in March.

James, who has also written standalone crime fiction in addition to the Grace books that have sold more than 21 million copies, tells P.S: “I had had three earlier novels adapted and I was never happy with any of them.

“If you have a bad adaptation, it can hurt you as a writer. With Roy Grace, it was a long battle to bring it to the screen in a way that I could have some control over it.

“About four years later the fourth Roy Grace novel had come out and I got this excited phone call saying BBC Scotland wanted to put up all the money (for TV). But they wanted to transfer it to Aberdeen and Grampian Police.”

James turned the offer down. “I love Aberdeen – it is a gorgeous city with a great atmosphere,” he says. “But Grace is set in Brighton and Aberdeen is Stuart MacBride territory.”

The project was then “in limbo” until 2014, when another interested party wanted to take it on and make Grace female, an idea James also rejected. It wasn’t until he eventually found his dream team – producer Andrew O’Connor, writer Russell Lewis and ITV’s head of drama Polly Hill – that he became excited about the current adaptation in which he is keenly involved.

James says: “ITV contacted me and asked how I would like John Simm playing Roy Grace. I was over the moon. And then Richie Campbell was put forward for the part of DS Branson, which was just amazing.” A second episode is now being filmed, anticipated for release later in the year.

In the latest print offering, we find Grace on the trail of missing woman Eden Paternoster, who disappeared on the way back from a day trip with her husband Niall. The super sleuth escalates the case to murder without a body, while at the same time grappling with information about a colleague that he knows he should report. Then, as the Paternoster case takes a major turn, he is hit by personal tragedy.

James, who writes in the granite tower of the home he shares on the island of Jersey with his wife Lara and their dogs, Goldendoodle Wally, and Labradoodle Spooky, based Grace on a real-life detective he met after becoming the victim of a burglary. He laughs: “Being burgled was the one of the best things that happened to me. It was also a great way to get rid of unwanted wedding presents.”

The writer, whose late mum Cornelia James was glove-maker to the Queen, is excited for the future. His novella, Wish You Were Dead, has now launched as part of a government initiative to encourage reading, and a stage play based on the second Roy Grace novel Looking Good Dead comes to Glasgow on August 2 and Edinburgh on October 5.

He says: “I love Scotland. For years, I spent summer in a house on the Balmoral Estate where the Queen and Prince Philip used to stay when Prince Charles was at Gordonstoun. It was such a privilege.”

Remembering early book tours north of the border and Glasgow pub crawls, he grins: “I have had some of the best hangovers in my life in Scotland.”


Peter James – Left You Dead, Pan Macmillan, £20