Not Dead Enough: Roy Grace on stage.
NOT DEAD ENOUGH | Peter James discusses the latest stage play to be based on his bestselling books starring Brighton detective Roy Grace…
“I LOVE SITTING AT THE BACK, WATCHING THE AUDIENCE’S REACTION”
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is one of the world’s most popular literary detectives – his 12th outing, Love You Dead, is another bestseller for author Peter James. Yet the Brighton-based cop has never made it to the small screen, despite several attempts.
“All the original cast I had in mind are now sort of retired,” admits James.
Although a TV series is not imminent, the stage adaptations keep on coming. Grace made his theatre debut in 2014, in an adaptation of the standalone novella, The Perfect Murder. This year saw the first book in the Grace series, Dead Simple, become a play and Grace is set to return in Not Dead Enough, a 2017 touring production by Shaun Mckenna, based on James’ third novel.
The new play stars Laura Whitmore (recently on Strictly Come Dancing) as Cleo Morey, while Grace is portrayed by Eastenders actor Shane Richie, who previously appeared alongside TV co-star Jessie Wallace in The Perfect Murder.
“They’ve been fantastically successful, amazing,” James tells Crime Scene. “The Perfect Murder had its second run this year, with Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace, and just sold out for 11 weeks. It’s great because, as an author, you can’t really sit and watch someone reading your book. But I love sitting at the back of a theatre and watching the audience’s reaction – and I’ve learnt quite a lot from it.”
In fact, that experience may have partly inspired James’ latest book, Love You Dead, which pits Grace against a certain kind of femme fatale — a black widow.
“I learnt from watching Dead Simple, two years ago, just how much people love an evil, beautiful woman,” he says. “There’s this gasp of surprise but also joy when you learn, actually, she’s a monster.”
Not Dead Enough involves a seemingly impossible murder.
“It’s going to be interesting. It’s darker than the other two, we’re playing it more as a dark thriller,” says James, who’s also co-producer. “The whole setting is the mortuary. There are some good shocks in it and I’m very excited.”
Cleo Morey is based on a real-life Brighton mortuary technician who told James about a strange experience: “She went to make a cup of coffee, came back, and a body sat up and said ‘Where the fuck am I?’ – she’d taken a massive overdose of barbiturates, jumped in the freezing cold water and it slowed her heart rate right down.”
For the next stage play, James is working on his ghost story, The House On Cold Hill. He also still has hopes for a Roy Grace TV series, which is in long-term development at ITV.
“Part of the reason it’s taken so long to bring it to [ the screen] is because I’m determined that when it’s done, it’s done right,” says James, who balked at one BBC proposal to uproot Grace to Scotland. “I just hope it will be worth the wait. For me it’s the most successful thing I’ve ever written. I feel massively close to it – I intend to go on writing them for many years to come.”
Not Dead Enough is on tour from 25 January: notdeadenough.co.uk