DEAD IF YOU DON’T: Five Questions with Peter James



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You will not find a busier man in show business than the great Peter James. An international bestseller who’s sold more than 19 million books around the world, James is a true master of his craft and is known for always delivering a solid, unputdownable thriller for his many fans.

That is certainly the case again this year, because his latest Roy Grace novel, Dead if You Don’t, is spectacular!

Taking place over a 24-hour period, James’ latest features a pulse-pounding plot that gives Roy only a short period of time to find a boy who was abducted from his father’s side at Amex Stadium, during one of the year’s biggest games. In a matter of moments, every parent’s worst nightmare becomes Roy Grace’s most challenging case yet. . . and James delivers in a way that only he can. 

Prior to his book hitting US bookstores (it was officially released on June 1st), James graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him everything from which authors he enjoys to what’s next for Roy Grace in the future. Read the Q&A below, and then order your copy of Dead if You Don’t, now available in bookstores everywhere. 


TRBS: Roy Grace is back! Dead if You Don’t is so good. . . how did you come up with the plot idea for this story, and how much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write it? 

James: “Thank you. I love books that have tight time frames and I thought it would be a real challenge to write a novel set over 24 hours. One of the best scenarios for this is kidnap because the majority of kidnaps are resolved extremely quickly, often within hours. The longer they go on the less likely a good outcome is. I didn’t manage 24 hours but most of the action takes place over 36!”

TRBS: Incredibly, this is the 14th book in the Roy Grace series. Did you ever think, back when Dead Simple (the first book in the series) came out, that you’d still be writing about Roy all these books later?

James: “My publisher Pan Macmillan asked me in 2000 if I was interested in creating a new fictional detective, and I was given a two-book contract. I didn’t know if the books would be successful or not and I was completely taken by surprise with the enthusiastic response by my readers.  My publishers asked me to continue the series within weeks of Dead Simple being published and now, as I write the 15th book, I am still loving the Roy Grace series!”

TRBS: What is your writing process like — do you write at the same time each day, do you outline your books before you begin writing them, etc. — and what advice do you have for aspiring authors? 

James: “Each book I write, it takes me approximately seven months to write the first draft, then a further four months of editing processes. I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words six days a week.  I find my best writing time is early evening, but I also write in the mornings, taking a break from writing in the afternoon to catch up with emails, walk the dogs, or do interviews and research.

“I plan a book carefully, it is really the first 20% that I plan in detail, along with the ending, which I always know, to give me a “road map” and the three high points — but after that, I like events to happen spontaneously and for the story to start to take on a life of its own — that is when, for me, the real excitement starts.  I believe that if, as a writer, you do not surprise yourself, you aren’t going to surprise your readers!

“The best possible advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read, read, read, and analyse, and write, write, write.  Writing is a craft, and any craft is improved with practice.  But most importantly is to read the most successful of the kind of works you would yourself like to write:  So, if you want to be, for instance, a crime thriller writer, read the blockbusters of the past fifty years.  Analyse them, literally deconstruct them and try to figure out what made them so popular.  This is what I did when I started out.  I took the books I most admired, the ones I most wished I had written, and literally read them until I knew them inside out.”

TRBS: Who are some authors you enjoy, and what books are currently sitting on your nightstand? 

James: “I’ve just read a great book by Cole Moreton Is God Still an Englishman?  a wonderfully readable book and it’s very relevant to my big standalone book, which is out later this year called Absolute Proof.

“I am always looking for new authors whose work will grip me and inspire me – I very much like the French author Pierre Le Maitre as one example of just this.

“My favorite ever author is Graham Greene, it was his novel Brighton Rock that made me want to be a writer. I also enjoy Linwood Barclay and Michael Connelly.”

TRBS: Lastly, now that Dead if You Don’t is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you and Roy Grace? 

James: “I am now over 140 pages into the 15th Roy Grace book, which will come out next May. On October 4th Absolute Proof will be published in the USA in audio and in print next year – this is a standalone thriller that I have been working on since 1989 about what would happen if someone credible had absolute proof of God’s existence. Next year, I have a stage adaptation of a ghost story I wrote called The House on Cold Hill, which will be on a nationwide tour of the UK from January. And in Autumn 2019, the sequel to The House on Cold Hill will be published — I am in the process of editing that now!”



Roy Grace, the creation of the CWA Diamond Dagger award-winning author Peter James, faces his most complex case yet in Dead If You Don’t.

Kipp Brown, a 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 their club’s Saturday afternoon football match 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.

Defying instruction not to contact the police, Kipp reluctantly does just that, and Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is brought in to investigate. At first, it seems like a straightforward case of kidnap. But rapidly Grace finds himself entering a dark, criminal underbelly of the city, where the rules are different and nothing is what it seems.



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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