My Path To David Gaylor
Guest post from Peter James
My path to David Gaylor, the inspiration and role model for my character, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, began 30 years ago, when I was burgled! I subsequently became friends with the young detective who dusted my house for fingerprints. Knowing I was midway through writing a thriller involving police officers he told me one day: ‘There’s this quirky homicide detective you might like to meet …’
I first encountered David in Brighton police station. All I could see was his head above a sea of blue and green crates and brown manila folders. I assumed he was moving offices. ‘No,’ he said, ‘These are my dead friends!” He explained that although an active homicide detective, he’d been tasked with reviewing all the unsolved murders in the county of Sussex. ‘I am each victim’s last chance for justice, and the family’s for closure,’ he said and I knew in that instant I’d found an extraordinary policeman.
He began by helping me with the policing aspects of my next three thrillers as well as their plot lines. Then my publisher asked if I would like to create a homicide officer as a central character. David had risen to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent, head of Major Crime for Sussex, and I asked him how he would feel about becoming a fictional cop! He loved the idea. Roy Grace shares David’s dress sense, his love of good food and even his passion for collecting items, such as inkwells. Unlike Roy Grace, David doesn’t however, have a long-term missing wife – well not yet, anyway!
“The elements that make an effective homicide detective are a unique combination of an almost obsessive, compulsive brain, able to fit together the hundreds and sometimes thousand of pieces of a murder mystery puzzle, together with the ability to think laterally, out-of-the box, and totally open mindedly.”
The elements that make an effective homicide detective are a unique combination of an almost obsessive, compulsive brain, able to fit together the hundreds and sometimes thousand of pieces of a murder mystery puzzle, together with the ability to think laterally, out-of-the box, and totally open mindedly. These strengths, together with his experiences in all aspects of police work, from murder to domestic abuse to fraud, ensure my crime writing has resonance and authenticity.
We have a ritual when we start a new book together. We meet in a Sussex country pub called The Ginger Fox, take the same table, open a new black Moleskine notebook and work through a basic plot and the high points of the next story. I do a rough treatment and David reads it and comes back with comments.
He has always refused to let me pay him a penny, yet I owe him so much of the success of Roy Grace. I try to make it up to him by taking him to crime conventions around the world and spoiling him. We have become very good friends in real life, he was best man at my second wedding and spends so much time at my house, friends joke that he knows where things are better than I do! If I’m looking for something he’s quite likely to say, ‘It’s in that cupboard over there …’ He has made me a crime scene in assistant’s office, and put together a police museum in my office – I collect police memorabilia wherever I travel on book promotion around the world – and have items from over forty countries including Russia, China and India.
“Most cops dread retirement, but David can carry on as a “virtual” cop for as long as I keep writing my Roy Grace novels – which I hope will be a very long time.”
Although David retired six years ago he still retains links with many former colleagues and the Force. The relationship that I built through him with Sussex police continued with continued under the shepherding of another senior officer, Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, Former Commander of Brighton & Hove. Graham and I have co-written with him a nonfiction book about the real life policing of Roy Grace’s Brighton, titled Death Comes Knocking – Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton, which was published in the UK in July.
An amazing 18 million Roy Grace books have been sold, giving me 11 consecutive Sunday Times No 1’s. None of this would have been possible without David. I count the day I met him as one of the luckiest of my life. He always tells me he’s very happy, too. Most cops dread retirement, but David can carry on as a “virtual” cop for as long as I keep writing my Roy Grace novels – which I hope will be a very long time.
Peter James is the author of the internationally best-selling D.S. Roy Grace series, as well as numerous other works. Peter James’ latest Roy Grace novel is Love You Dead.