Making a killing with dead books

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Mar 13 2011, 06:20am hrs
British crime writer Peter James, whose Roy Grace detective novels have sold over five and a half million worldwide, is a superstitious man. He never wears the colour green or for that matter travels in a green vehicle, always wears red socks and has never climbed up a ladder. There are certain days that are important and I tend to keep my crucial appointments on those days only, says the celebrated crime writer whose Roy Grace detective novel series has been translated into 34 languages.

On his maiden trip to India after the success of his recent work Dead Like You, James believes that the genre of crime is the backbone of fiction writing. If you look at the history of fiction, for example, Shakespeare, in his time writing plays was the fashion and half his plays were courtroom dramas. And if we look at the ancient Greek literature, Aristotle also wrote mostly about the society and its crime, says James.

James tryst with the world of police and crime began after his house was burgled 20 years ago. A detective came around to the house for fingerprints. He gave me his card and said I could call him if I ever needed any research. We got friendly and he invited me to dinner and later, he invited me on a patrol. I became a part of their inclusive world, where they are constantly on the job. They look at the world with a completely different eye, which I call as healthy cultural suspicion, says James, who spends a day of the week with the police to absorb the nuances of their world.

For his latest work, he drew inspiration from The Rotherham Shoe Man case that involved a series of rape cases in Yorkshire between 1983 and 1987. Suddenly, the offences stopped and the police lost all track of him. But in 2006, a woman was arrested for drunk-driving and her DNA was routinely taken. Then suddenly on the national DNA database, a partial match was flagged up with DNA from the suspected, but unidentified Shoe Man. It was what is known as a familial match, which means a partial resemblance, recalls James. The police contacted the woman and asked if she had a brother, who turned out to be a very straightforward businessman, James Lloyd, 49, happily married with an 11-year-old daughter, and a 17-year-old son. When the police raided his business premises, they found 126 pairs of womens high quality shoes, wrapped in cellophane, in the basement . Lloyd was arrested and is now serving a life sentence. It was Lloyds fascination with shoes that led to my work Dead Like You, says James, who had always wanted to write on rape as its one of the most poorly dealt with crimes.

Its his fascination with the word dead that led him to adopting this word as his logo. I used to have one-word titles for my early books, but realised that it wasnt a smart thing to do. I wrote Possession, and then six months later, AS Byatt wrote one with the same title. I wrote Twilight, and we know what happened to that. I use the word dead in my titles and have kind of made it my thing, almost like my logo. In the UK, theyre known as the Dead series, which could backfire, but someone said I wrote dead good books, says the author.

Fond of Vikram Seth and Arvind Adigas works, James feels that the popularity of Indian literature keeps going up and down. Also known as a filmmaker, who has produced films like Merchant Of Venice (2004) and The Statement (2003), James has stopped film-making with his books taking precedence. And with his next book Dead Mans Grip slated to be out soon, James promises a few shocking twists and turns with his upcoming book in the Roy Grace series.