PW: You've had a great deal of success with your Peter Diamond series. What made you decide to feature a new detective in The Circle?
Peter Lovesey: Hen Mallin isn't totally new. She first appeared in the previous book, where the action was spread between two locations and I needed a senior detective to handle the inquiry on the south coast, where the body was found. I liked Diamond having to work with a woman. She had to be strong to stand up to him. When I set this book on the south coast again, it seemed natural to let Hen handle the inquiry.
PW: How would the story have differed had Diamond been the lead?
PL: It would have been set in Bath, his patch. The circle are writers, and having them meet in Chichester, where I live, gives the book a different momentum. I don't bring Hen and her murder team in until some way through the book, and I have some of the writers doing their own sleuthing. Diamond is more domineering than Hen and would have been more combative from the start. There would have been less chance for the writers to emerge as personalities.
PW: How is Hen different from Diamond?
PL: She's had to compensate for being short and female in a job dominated by men. She picked the toughest job because she wanted to win respect from her family. She had a difficult apprenticeship—nightmares over a child abuse case, throwing up when viewing corpses and being beaten up on a drugs bust—but she persevered and got to the top through wit and determination. Diamond, on the other hand, was always a big man, a rugby player, and he's been known to have used violence on suspects in the past. He has a short fuse, he's clumsy, not very popular with his team.
PW: Are you considering exploring a romantic relationship between the two?
PL: We'll see what happens. He isn't ready yet, and she has seen what a pain he can be.
PW: What led you to concentrate for the moment on contemporary stories, as opposed to the historical mysteries with which you began your career?
PL: Someone wrote to my publisher saying she assumed I died many years ago because I wrote Victorian mysteries, but her husband thought I might still be alive, and they wanted the matter cleared up. She enclosed a stamped addressed envelope. After checking my pulse, I wrote a reply and then reflected on why I was so rooted in the past. It took a big effort making the change to modern settings, up-to-date forensic science and lively dialogue, but the change has been good for me. We all need new challenges. My contemporary books actually need more research because modern techniques of investigation are constantly moving on. If I write a book set in 1880, I know which books to use, which papers to read. In 2005, I'm forever buying textbooks, cutting things out of magazines and papers and going to conferences on police procedures and watching documentaries to get the latest.
PW: Might you ever return to Sergeant Cribb?
PL: The last Cribb novel was 1978. I returned to him last year in a short story called "Razor Bill," but I don't have plans for a novel. It's nice to see the TV series has at last been issued on DVD and video. If there was a big upsurge of interest, I might be tempted.