Interview with Richard James
Author of The Body In The Trees
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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How would you describe The Body In The Trees to a new reader?
- It's the continuation of the Bowman Of The Yard series - but that doesn't mean you have to read the previous books first! The Body In The Trees is a stand alone investigation for Inspector Bowman and his fellow detectives from Scotland Yard, but you'll soon learn more about his personal predicament as you read...
What was the inspiration behind the Bowman Of The Yard series ?
- I wanted to write a series of stories set in Victorian times, an era I find fascinating. I've always loved Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and wanted to create a detective of my own but more vulnerable. Once I hit upon the idea that he believes himself responsible for the death of his wife, I knew I had a story worth telling and a character worth following.
What's the future for the series?
- Well, the present series of books will end after book four, The Phantom In The Fog. It's then my intention to go back in time for a prequel series set ten years before the events in The Body In The Trees, where we will see Bowman as a young Detective Sergeant. Following that, I want to flash forward to see Bowman in the year 1902. I find the turn of the century an interesting point in time, with Victoria dead and the British Empire struggling to assert its new identity. Amongst it all, we'll find Bowman tackling a new generation of crime.
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- I loved writing The Body In The Trees because it provided me with an opportunity to take Bowman out of Victorian London. It made a real change to write about open countryside rather than the dark alleys I'm used to, and I hope the reader will find it refreshing, too. The book is set in the village of Larton which is actually based on where I was living at the time. All the landmarks are very familiar to me!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Never belief the mysticism that surrounds the act of writing. Don't wait for the Muse to strike, or until you have that perfect writing chair or room. Don't believe there is anything special about writers, we all have stories to tell! Just put one word after another until yours is done.
What's your writing process?
- This relates to my previous answer. There is nothing mystical about my process. I sit and I write. I have a general direction of travel in mind, but I'm always happy to change the narrative as new ideas and directions present themselves. As Brian Clemens once wrote; 'There's no mystery: arse to chair, pen to paper.'
Which character in the Bowman Of The Yard series has had the greatest impact on readers?
- One reviewer remarked that, 'A more interesting character could not have been conceived of than George Bowman', which pleased me no end! I suppose it's his vulnerability that's so appealing, but I know others prefer the ever cheerful Sergeant Graves. Graves has the ability to lighten any situation, so it's a big blow when, in The Body In The Trees, Bowman puts his ever faithful companion at risk.
If The Body In The Trees were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
- Well, as an actor, I reserve the right to cast myself in the lead role! I would love to play Inspector Bowman and surround myself with the cream of British acting talent to help bring the story to life. A guy can dream!
How have readers responded to The Body In The Trees?
- With the third book, I've found that readers are now heavily invested in the series and the characters and, I'm happy to say, are pleased to see them return! Many reviews have remarked that the series just keeps getting better and The Body In The Trees has left many readers wanting more.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- Alongside my historical crime fiction novels, I also write science fiction. As such, the future promises journeys to other worlds and other times, from Iron Age Britain to far flung galaxies. Watch this space!
Accompanied by the trusted Sergeant Graves, Detective Inspector George Bowman finds himself in Larton, a sleepy village on the River Thames. A series of supposed suicides has opened up old wounds between the locals and a gypsy camp in the woods.
The detectives are viewed with suspicion as the villagers close ranks against their investigation, even more so when Bowman succumbs to visions of his dead wife. His sanity in the balance, it’s not long before he places Graves himself in danger, risking the wrath of the Commissioner of Scotland Yard.
Is Bowman in full possession of his wits?
As village life continues and a link between the suicides is discovered, Bowman finds himself ensnared in the machinations of a secret society, with a figure at its head who will stop at nothing to escape justice.
Soon, the inspector is embroiled in a case that began on the dusty plains of Africa, and ends at the gates of a lunatic asylum.