Det. Supt. Roy Grace pursues a rapist with a thing for shoes in Peter James's Dead Like You, the sixth in his contemporary crime series set in Brighton, England.
Will new readers have difficulty jumping into the middle of the series?
I write each Roy Grace novel as a stand-alone and do a quick recap in each book so that it doesn't matter where in the series the reader starts.
The procedural details prove that you've spent time with real cops.
The police force in every country in the world has its own culture, and police officers have their own unique way of looking at the world. I call it a "healthy culture of suspicion." If you and I walk down a shopping street in, say, New York, and we see two guys looking in a shop window, we'll think, They are wondering what they want to buy. A police officer sees them and thinks, Why are they standing there? Are they going to mug someone? Are they doing a drug deal? Are they about to rob the shop? Last September I was driving with a detective inspector across Sussex. I asked him, "What does it feel like to be a detective? Do you view the world differently to me?" He replied, "You're looking through the windscreen at a beautiful summer day. I'm looking for a man who is standing in the wrong place."
How do you conduct your research?
I was "lucky" enough to be burgled about 20 years ago, and the detective who came to our house looked at one of my early novels and asked if I was an author. He gave me his card and told me to call him if I needed research help. My then-wife and I became good friends with him and his wife (also a police officer), and we met their friends, who were almost all police officers. After some years, officers were phoning to tell me about something interesting they were doing and would I like to come with them. Today, I spend an average of one day a week with the police.
Why did you choose to set your series in Brighton?
To the outsider, Brighton is a hip, vibrant, and beautiful seaside city, but it has a long history of darkness, right back to its roots in the Middle Ages as a smugglers' village. In the early 1930s, after dismembered female torsos were discovered in luggage lockers in railway stations, Brighton gained the soubriquets of "Crime Capital of England" and "Murder Capital of Europe." It has never lost this image. For nine years running, it has held the title the Tourist Board does not like me mentioning: "Injecting Drug Death Capital of the U.K." Very importantly, and to my great good fortune, it has not been overwritten by other writers.