Interview with Richard James
Author of The Head In The Ice
I've been telling stories all my life. As an actor I've spent a career telling other people's, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. As I writer, I get to create my own!
I have written almost thirty plays which are produced the world over; from USA to New Zealand and just about everywhere in between. They're mostly comedies and frequently win awards in competitions and festivals.
In 2014 I wrote a book, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working as an actor on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series.
So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel. I decided it had to be set in a world I would want to spend time in and feature characters I would want to be with. And most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era. It seems such a rich period of history, populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that's where I've started my novel-writing career. The Head In The Ice is the first in the Bowman Of The Yard series and follows the investigation of Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard into the discovery of - well, a head in the ice of the River Thames. Over the course of the book, however, and the series in general, we see he has demons of his own to contend with.
There will be four books in the Bowman Of The Yard series in all, together with some short stories from Bowman's Casebook. These will fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman's professional progress and personal battles (he's a troubled man, as you'll see) over twelve months of his life. 1892 promises to be quite a year for Inspector Bowman, and I'm sure he would love to have your company!
I really hope you like the books. If you do, you can tweet me your thoughts at @RichardNJames. I hope to hear from you!
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What is Bowman Of The Yard?
- Bowman Of The Yard is a series of books featuring Detective Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard. They are each set in a different season of 1892, and follow Bowman's investigations in and around Victorian London. In the meantime, we learn that he is battling his own demons following the death of his wife.
What's different about George Bowman as a central character?
- He's very much a flawed hero. I enjoyed taking someone who is vulnerable as a result of a traumatic event, and placing them in a position of authority and responsibility to see how they cope.
Who or what inspired you to write the Bowman Of The Yard series?
- I love Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes stories. They offer a picture of London that I find really evocative. I wanted to capture that in my books, whilst giving the lead character a more modern twist - and certainly not having him as invincible as Holmes!
You make good use of locations in the book – there’s a real sense of place. Are these locations significant for you?
- I am lucky in that I live just a stone's throw from London, so I can hop on a train and walk the very streets in which the books are set or drink in the detectives' favourite pub!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Find a story you really want to tell, and write characters you want to spend time with. Hopefully, that'll translate to your readers, too.
You mentioned this is a series, did you have each story planned out before you started?
- I have a direction of travel in mind. I know where George Bowman starts in The Head In The Ice, and where he will finish up by the end of the series. Each book is a distinct investigation, so readers can jump in anywhere without knowing the previous stories. This means they have to stand up in their own right as separate books.
Is there a uniting style to each of the books, or is each one different?
- Most of the main characters are carried on to the next book, so they each bring their own unique energies with them. The Head In The Ice reads, in part, like a modern detective investigation in terms of pace and thrills.
If The Head In The Ice were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role?
- As an actor I would be tempted to say me! On closer reflection, perhaps I would suggest Ben Wishaw. He has just the right mix of dashing good looks with a certain vulnerability that's essential.
How have readers responded to The Head In The Ice?
- Luckily, very well! I've attended a few reading groups where the feedback has been very positive. They seemed to really enjoy the atmosphere created in the books - a feeling that's reflected in the 5 star reviews on Amazon, too.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- Bowman's story continues! This initial series will feature four books (each one set in a different season of 1892), but I have plans for two more series, one set ten years later in Edwardian London, the other a prequel set in 1882.
Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of his wife's death threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.
Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.