By James W, Monday 5th November 2018
Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks series of crime books have sold across the globe and has become a favourite crime-solving cop with readers. In episode 4 of Written in Blood he invites Simon to Yorkshire, the setting for his DCI Banks series, where he reveals the largely untold story of 14-year-old stabbing victim Elsie Frost. We caught up with Peter to discuss his career and this tragic crime.
CBSR: Did any one person or event inspire you to be a writer?
PR: It’s something I always wanted to, and always have done, ever since I was a child. I suppose if anyone inspired me, it was my father. He was a keen amateur photographer and used to write articles to send in to photographic magazines along with his photos. I used to show all my early attempts to him for encouragement. He was also a fan of Chandler and Simenon, so there’s a crime fiction connection there, too.
CBSR: Where did the character of DCI Banks come from?
PR: Mostly from my reading of other crime fiction—the idea of the detective and his sidekick and a certain area of the country as their patch. Ruth Rendell and P.D. James were early British influences, but before them I was inspired by the Maigret novels set in France, and the Martin Beck series set in Sweden.
CBSR: Does real life tend to inspire your books?
PR: Not usually, though certain books, such as When the Music’s Over, have taken their lead from true crime stories. Usually I would take an undeveloped report and elaborate on it.
CBSR: Had you seen “Written in Blood” before your involvement in the programme?
PR: Yes. I saw a couple of episodes in the first series but never thought I’d be appearing on it myself.
CBSR: The crime explored in your episode of “Written in Blood” is a particularly distressing one. Can you recall first learning about it?
PR: The Elsie Frost case was brought to my attention by a contact working for the West Yorkshire Archives in Wakefield. Though I hadn’t known about it at the time it happened, I felt an immediate connection. Back in 1965, I was about the same age as Elsie and lived only a few miles away in Leeds.
CBSR: Are there any other genres you’d like to write for?
PR: I could see writing something other than a police procedural, as I did with my standalone novel Before the Poison. Perhaps historical fiction. And it would probably involve a crime!
CBSR: What hints and tips would you give to new writers?
PR: Put your bum on the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. And develop a thick skin. Don’t give up.
CBSR: What else are you working on at the moment?
PR: I’m on working on a trilogy centred around the return of an old enemy of Banks and Annie. The first book, Careless Love, is already published, so I’m working on the second volume now, tentatively called Many Rivers to Cross. With any luck it should be out in summer 2019.
CBSR: Peter Robinson, thank you very much.
Episode 4 of Written in Blood is showing on Tuesday 6th November at 10pm.
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