Simon Brett intends to follow his 14th Fethering mystery, The Corpse on the Court, with his first mystery in 15 years to feature his first series character, actor/sleuth Charles Paris.
Why did you take such a long break from Charles Paris?
After 17 of them, I wanted to try something new (which turned out to be the Fethering series). I was also a bit worried that I might be losing my sharpness about the contemporary theatrical scene. When I started the Charles Paris series, I was working as a BBC radio producer, then as a television producer at London Weekend, so every time I answered the phone, I was doing research for the books. As I wrote more of them, I had to pick the brains of other people rather than writing out of my own experience. Also, the advance I was offered then for an 18th Charles Paris was derisory.
How will what you’ve been working on in between affect the next Charles Paris book?
Show business has changed so much that there are lots of new facets of it for me to explore. In the interim, I have been involved in other writing for theater—plays, pantomimes, etc.—so my stock of research is building up again. And when I get stuck about a detail of show business life, I can now consult my wife, who’s head of development at Chichester Festival Theatre. The only thing that feels different is Paris’s age. The next will be the first Paris book in which he is younger than me.
How do your series differ?
They all feature amateur detectives. Where they differ is in their level of reality. The Charles Paris books are an actual reflection of the life lived by actors. The Fethering mysteries are also set in the fairly realistic world of a seaside village in West Sussex. The Mrs. Pargeter books exist in a kind of Ealing Comedy cloud-cuckoo land, filled with lovable villains and other larger-than-life characters. And the Blotto and Twinks series is even further from any recognizable reality. They, an aristocratic pair of siblings, dash around the world in a Lagonda, righting wrongs in a period which is vaguely the 1920s and ’30s.
What led you to set The Corpse on the Court in the world of court tennis, the ancestral form of lawn tennis?
I’ve been (rather ineptly) playing tennis for over 20 years. It’s a very strange game, with fewer than 30 courts in this country (the most famous being the one at Hampton Court). I thought it’d be an interesting background for Carole and Jude, and it also offered me the challenge of making comprehensible to the average reader a sport which very few people actually play.