Peter Lovesey’s first novel WOBBLE TO DEATH introduced the redoubtable Victorian policemen, Cribb and Thackeray. He won the Gold Dagger Award with THE FALSE INSPECTOR DEW and in 2000 joined the elite group of people awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award.
What was the last book you read?
Storyteller: the Life of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock. These days Dahl is regarded mainly as a children’s writer, but he produced some classic crime short stories as well. Sturrock’s biography is full of insights into this strange, gifted and not very likeable man. I’ve always felt a debt of gratitude to Dahl for the Tales of the Unexpected TV series because when the format was opened up to other writers it gave us good opportunities for us to come in on his coat-tails. I now have a better understanding of the mind that could write the brilliant Lamb to the Slaughter.
Which book would you recommend to a younger version of you that hadn’t read it?
Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith. Of course most people remember the Hitchcock film, but the book is even better, essential reading. I’ve always been fascinated by stories that tell the tale from the murderer’s point of view and no one does this better than Highsmith. This one has more interest for me than her Ripley novels because here we have an unwilling killer trapped into the act as part of a pact. It’s a fascinating idea, done with such economy.
What was the first book you remember having a big impression on you as a child?
When I was seven and discovering the magic of reading, our house was bombed by one of Hitler’s “doodlebugs” and we were homeless. With no books to read, I was desperate until my father brought in The Life of Sir Edward Marshall Hall, by Edward Marjoribanks. Not a promising title, yet it had me enthralled, for Marshall Hall was the great defence barrister of the early twentieth century and each chapter unfolded a real case he was involved in: the Brides in the Bath, the Green Bicycle Murder; Dr Crippen. After that, how could I be anything else but a crime writer?
When writing numerous books with recurring central characters do you find that you grow to love the character more or like them less?
I don’t think “love” is the right word for the way I feel about them, and even “like” doesn’t do it. I’m getting to know them, seeing how they cope in their job and in life. They become real to me, but I don’t necessarily admire them. If Peter Diamond knocked on my door I doubt if I’d invite him in. He is the longest running character in my books and this is only because I gave him a life-changing experience mid-way through. Up to then I felt I was getting to understand him too well. If the character gets predictable, then so do the books, and that’s a trap for a writer. In the new novel, called Stagestruck, Diamond is instructed to investigate a murder mystery in the Theatre Royal, Bath. His difficulty is that he has a phobia about entering the theatre. If he is to solve the crime, he must first face his own demons. So as the author I watch and try to make sense of his behaviour.
With the recent success of The King’s Speech, do you have any plans to re-release the sleuthing escapades of Bertie, Prince of Wales?
I doubt if “my” Bertie, the grandfather of King George VI, would make it into the cinema, but I had fun imagining him as a rather incompetent amateur detective. As Prince of Wales, he was bored waiting for his chance to become King, so it was reasonable that he should find something else to interest him besides ladies, horses and the South of France. The most amusing of the three to write was Bertie and the Seven Bodies, a sort of tribute to Agatha Christie in her centenary year, with a corpse for each day of the week at a house party and a nursery rhyme to help predict the outcome.
Peter Lovesey will be appearing on the Crime Writers Panel at WORDfest on Saturday April 2nd.