Multi-million selling Brighton-based crime writer Peter James sets himself a particular and intense challenge in his latest Roy Grace novel, Dead If You Don’t (May 17).
The action takes place over just a couple of days, inevitably upping the ante and adding to the urgency of it all.
Kipp Brown, successful businessman and compulsive gambler, is having the worst run of luck of his life.
He’s beginning to lose, big style. However, taking his teenage son Mungo to the Saturday afternoon football match at Brighton’s Amex should have given him a welcome respite, if only for a few hours. But it’s at the stadium where his nightmare begins.
Within minutes of arriving at the game, Kipp bumps into a client. He takes his eye off Mungo for a few moments, and in that time, the boy disappears. Then he gets the terrifying message that someone has his child, and to get him back alive, Kipp will have to pay…
“I wanted to write a book that had a very tight time frame,” Peter says. “This one is pretty much set over 48 hours. It was quite a challenge to do. It meant that I could not bring in some of the character development that I like to do in the Roy Grace team, but it was really good fun to write. There is something about a real sense of pace.
“Most of my novels are usually set over two weeks or three weeks or maybe a month. I wanted a different challenge, especially when you are writing about a kidnap which is a crime which is usually resolved within a day… or else it ends badly.”
Peter always prides himself on his meticulous research to make the police procedural side of his novels as authentic as they possibly can be. Curiously, this novel was actually suggested to him by the police.
“The idea that I set a book in the Sussex Albanian community came from the police.
“Brighton was one of the settlement areas, and about two thousand Albanians live in Brighton. A lot of the community are very good, nice people, but there are a number of Albanians that have a criminal reputation. They don’t affect other people, but within their own community, if anybody steps out of line in their criminal fraternity, they make really quite a public demonstration of violence against them, almost as a lesson to other crims.
“The police in Albania are constitutionally corrupt, and Sussex Police have a big problem engaging with the Albanian community because the Albanian community don’t believe it is possible to be a good police offer. The Sussex Police officer in charge of Albanian liaison said it might be interesting if I wrote a book which might help break the ice and show that it is possible to have a police force which really isn’t corrupt.
“I did have some really good help.
“The police liaison officer Nikki Denero was very happy for me to use her real name in the book.
“She read the book in the early stages. She’s really pleased with it and thinks it will be deeply helpful.”
She invited Peter along to a big picnic in Hove among the Albanian community. Peter also managed to get to Albania, thanks to a Russian/Albanian couple in Brighton, with whom Peter and his wife travelled.
“They were very friendly. A lot of Albanians are very conscious of the reputation that they have. They were really interested that I was interested enough to write about it.
“I was in Tirana, the capital, in a really nice hotel, a brand-new Crown Plaza.
“I said to the head waiter that we had been warned about the need to be really careful in Albania but that we had found the people to be really friendly and helpful. He said ‘It’s because all the villains are in your country!’”
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2