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 memoir, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working as an actor on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series. This was followed by an adaptation of the unscreened pilot episode, Demeter City, and four new short stories featuring the officers of Precinct 88, Space Precinct: Revisited.
As to my own series, I decided I wanted to write a sequence of books set in a world I would want to spend time in and featuring characters I would want to be with. 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 is where we first meet Detective Inspector George Bowman.
The Head In The Ice is the first in the Bowman Of The Yard series and follows Bowman's investigation into the discovery of - well, a head in the ice of the River Thames. Over the course of the book, however, and throughout the series in general, we see he has demons of his own to contend with.
There are four books in the Bowman Of The Yard series in all, together with some short stories from Bowman's Casebook. These have been collected into two volumes and 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.
'A masterful new Victorian mystery series.' Rosie Amber books
'A genuinely impressive debut.' Andrew Cartmel
'Full of the thrills of Victorian London.' Adam Croft
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.
A woman’s head found in the River Thames.
Battling with feelings of guilt over his wife’s death - and having spent time recovering in an asylum - Detective Inspector George Bowman must join his colleagues, Sergeant Graves and Inspector Hicks, to discover the woman’s identity.
A deal struck with the editor of the Evening Standard to follow the investigation from within turns sour following a botched ambush on a suspect’s lair.
A false identification, a doomed visit to a Spiritualist Meeting and Graves' investigations into a ship called Nimrod all serve to bring Bowman closer to a revelation.
The investigation unfolds, but Graves and Hicks grow increasingly concerned at Bowman’s mental state.
A chase across the frozen streets of London leads to a final confrontation on the waters of The Thames, where Bowman must face the demons that haunt him to catch the killer