Sunday, 27 November 2011

Peter James is our John the Baptist

This month I was one of several ghostwriters filmed by Sky Arts for the Book Show. Back in the studio Mariella Frostrup was sitting beside Peter James, who is both a friend and currently one of the most successful crime writers in the world with his Brighton based detective, Roy Grace. What is less well known is that in 1994 Peter was almost certainly the first electronic author in the world and got a right bashing from the literary media as a result. He was, in other words, a prophet of the times we now live in.

I first met him around that time and he tried to explain to me how Penguin were publishing his horror novel, "Host", on two floppy disks, (remember them?). It all sounded very interesting but I couldn't really grasp what he was so enthusiastic about. That is not the only interesting thing about Peter, of course. He is also a film producer, (he had then just lost a lot of money filming "Biggles" and went on to have much more success with "The Merchant of Venice" starring Al Pacino) - I believe I also remember hearing him give a lecture in a morgue, but perhaps that was a dream.

Many of the grandees of publishing came out to say what a huge disservice he was doing the industry with all this screen based, electronic gimmickry. He was accused of attempting to kill off the novel and he got a good verbal clouting on Radio 4's Today programme, (I've had one of those myself so I know just how exasperating it can be). So I think it is now only right to give some credit where it is due. Peter James is the electronic publishing world's John the Baptist and if not canonised should at least be knighted.

I have already written a little about how Mariella dropped me in it with both him and Robert Harris on the show, (see my blog at "Mariella Frostrup plays the mischievous minx" if you fancy a quick shot of schadenfreude).

Also this month I put "The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer" up on Kindle as well as Smashwords, so I feel I have taken one more tiny step in Peter James's mighty shoes.


Linda Gillard said...

I too bear Frostrup scars. My first publisher, Transita brought out a list of novels in 2005 which consisted of commercial women's fiction aimed at mature women. (This was when chick lit was at its height, so this was an innovative thing to do.) We were all thrilled when R4 gave us air time on the Book Programme, but Mariellajust couldn't resist referring to the books as "Frump Lit".

Debbie said...

I met Peter way back when he was writing contemporary fantasy and was setting up one of the first ISPs - Pavilion. He used to come to the British Fantasy Society conventions and kindly gave a year's free internet access to the BFS which enabled us to get a net presence for the first time. This would have been - ooh - early 90s possibly. Lovely bloke.

Jan Needle said...

altho my name's needle, i wouldn't know a gutermann thread if one bit me on the nose, but i do know a lot about swearing. enid's reference to words that would shock her mother is particuarly interesting, because i'm happy to report that i learnt most of my swearwords from my mum, who used them with great liberality and extreme obscenity. my dad, on the other hand, rarely went beyond bloody. all my five children grew up in an atmosphere of 'liberal' language, and only the daughter ended up as a committed swearer. but they all know the value and power of such words. i really find the way some adults respond to swearwords in kids' books, or even ancient cusswords like damn, terribly depressing. it's not only in america, although there seem to be many cases of genuine cultural lunacy there at the moment. it's screaming hypocrisy, of course. we all know children swear amongst themselves, and i utterly reject the notion that swearing debases language. we all grow up with it, it's part of human intercourse (also a banned word in the usa, i imagine), and it enriches at least as much as it debases. and sales aren't everything, are they?

Jan Needle said...

talking about ghostwriting, this comment was meant to appear after enid richemont's THREADS, FABRICS AND BOOKS blog. sorry everyone, but i blame the computer. (can they answer back yet?)