Friday 4 June 2010

Brighton's Own Gatsby

Peter James is a phenomenon.

He threw a launch party for his latest detective novel, “Dead Like You”, at the end of Brighton Pier the other night and during the speeches his publisher announced that the book had gone straight into the hardback charts at number one.

Record numbers of translations and foreign sales and other mind-boggling statistics were also being bandied about. In an age when everyone is bemoaning the state of publishing and the decline of the book Peter is glowing evidence that people still want to read well told stories if they are marketed to them with enough energy and enthusiasm.

The most extraordinary aspect of that warm summer’s evening was that despite Peter’s enviable success, not one of the several hundred guests could be heard breathing the slightest criticism of the man himself. No one, it seems, ever has a bad word to say of this extraordinarily kind, amiable, generous and talented man. He simply defies cynicism. Anyone who has ever helped him on his way, right back to the English master who inspired him at school and up to the man who is going on Mastermind with Peter’s detective, Roy Grace, as his specialist subject, had been included in the celebration.

Twenty years ago Peter was one of the few people actively prophesying the inevitable approach of electronic readers. He was the first serious author I know of who actually produced a book on disc and became involved in the launch of an internet server. Since then he has produced films, raced cars, become a virtual member of the Brighton police force as well as visiting others all round the world. He is the Jay Gatsby of our time.

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