Peter James is an international bestselling crime-thriller novelist. His mother, Cornelia James, was glove-maker to Queen Elizabeth II while his father was a chartered accountant.
His novels have been translated into 36 languages; three have been filmed and three are now in development. All of his novels reflect his deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in-depth research. James has written 25 novels, including the No 1 bestselling crime thriller series featuring Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, which has sold 14 million copies worldwide.
James works with The Reading Agency, a charity with a mission to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. He lives in England.
will take part in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which will take place in Dubai from March 4 to 8.
To become a writer, one needs to read a lot. Do you agree?
Yes, I think it is the single most important thing someone who wants to write must do. I am amazed how often someone says to me, “You know, I’d like to be a writer, how do I begin?” Then I ask them if they read a lot and they say no, they hardly ever read. I say to these people, “Forget it, you’ll never be a writer without the passion for reading in your soul.”
Do you think books can change or influence societies?
Yes, absolutely, books have been so often throughout our history a force for change. I have direct experience in my own small way, in my Roy Grace novels. My character, Roy Grace, has a hatred of the big hospital in Brighton, the Royal Sussex County Hospital. It has been a disgraceful place for many years. In several of my novels he has been really rude about it. Two years ago, I got a phone call from the director asking if he could come to meet me, and tell me of the changes they were planning, and if I would consider being more positive about it!
When and where do you like to read?
Like many of us I read late at night in bed — for this reason I love books with short chapters, which is why I always write short chapters myself.
Who is your perfect reader?
Real fans who read every book twice. I think when you read a gripping, fast-paced book of the kind I write, you miss so much on the first reading, as you just want to find out what happens next.
Do you hang on to books or pass them around when you are done reading?
I love to share books. If I finish a book I really love, I get huge pleasure from handing it on to someone I think will really like it too.
If you could recommend one book, which one would it be?
Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”. It is, very simply, the book that changed my life. When I first read it at the age of 14, as a kid growing up in Brighton, I knew, the moment I put it down, that I wanted to be a writer, too. I promised myself that one day I would try to write a novel set in Brighton, too, and hoped that it would be even 10 per cent as good as Brighton Rock … As a gentle homage, I created a villain called Spicer in my Roy Grace novel, “Dead Like You”.
What do you think of literature festivals?
I love great, well-run festivals like the Emirates — it is a wonderful opportunity to meet and engage with my fans.
What are you expecting from Dubai litfest?
If the last time I was here is anything to go by, terrific, enthusiastic and fun audiences, and a chance for me to learn about the present state of literature in the Emirates, and to meet and talk with some local writers.
Do you have any literary role models?
Graham Greene has always been my hero. He taught me the importance of grabbing the reader with the very first sentence of a novel, and he taught me how to create memorable characters in just a couple of sentences.