By Shantanu David
The Indian Express
Bestselling and award-winning author, BAFTA-nominated filmmaker (The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino), automobile collector, racing car driver, criminologist, paranormal researcher, skier. No, this is not a roll-call of a high-achiever’s club but Peter James’ resume. Best-known for his numerous award-winning crime fiction series featuring Detective Inspector Roy Grace, James wears all these caps comfortably, laconically remarking, “I’ve got used to working all the time. I just finished the final two chapters of a book on my flight to Singapore last Thursday night.”
In the country for the second time, 65-year-old James is on a whistle-stop tour around India, promoting sales and “doing some travelling”, another of his passions. “India is about the only country in the world where sales of print books keeps rising, which is a really encouraging thought,” he says.
James knows a bit about the publishing business and the print-versus-electronic debate. His book Host was published on two floppy disks by Penguin in 1994 as the World’s First Electronic Novel. “Storytelling is storytelling, no matter what the format,” says James.
While most writers go from writing stories and books to screenplays, Brighton-native James took the opposite route, studying at the Ravensbourne Film School and shifting to North America for several years, writing and producing TV shows and movies before returning home and starting his career as a novelist. “The thing with films is that they’re a collaborative effort with everyone, from the director to the producer to the director of photography, taking credit for the final product. With a novel, creatively, the piece is entirely mine. It’s my words and my vision that come out,” he explains, adding “Besides I’ve wanted to write since my early teens.”
James’ books are lauded for their faithful narration of police procedurals, something which has made him beloved of the authorities. “I’ve always been fascinated by human nature and think no one’s more exposed to it than a cop. I’ve been associated with police forces from the US, Germany, and the UK, specially Sussex where I stay, and have been consulting with them for more than 30 years. This association gives me much material for my work, because of the insight it provides into the ways people think and the actions they take,” he says.