Sunday, 5 February 2012

National Library Day and Peter Robinson

National Library Day

Saturday 4 February was National Library day in the UK. I had the pleasure of attending Stockton Central Library for a talk and book signing by Peter Robinson, the creator of the Inspector Banks detective/mystery series -

The event had been ‘sold out’ but the first snow of the winter resulted in some empty seats. Fortunately Peter had only travelled from the town of Richmond, Yorkshire not that many miles away; he had left his home in Toronto earlier in the week and, as he said, had just about got over the jet lag.

Peter’s first library, that used by Alan Bennett and novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, was at Armley in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Before the Poison

For his talk Peter chose to explain that his latest book ‘Before the Poison’ was not part of the Banks series. The inspiration for the story came from a rundown house he found beyond the old racecourse at Richmond. At one time there had been limekilns in the area; in the book the house became Kilnsgate. Somewhat creepy, a love story of the past and present ‘Before the Poison’ covers the life of Grace Elizabeth Fox hanged in 1953 for poisoning her husband. Chris Lowe who has returned to live at Kilnsgate becomes entrapped by Grace’s story and comes to believe she did not poison her husband.

Peter Robinson explained how he incorporated Grace’s journal in the book. He read an extract which covered Grace’s experience as a Queen Alexandra’s nurse during the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in WWII.

Question and Answer Session

Interestingly Peter does not know who the murderer is when he starts a Banks book. He may be three-quarters of the way through before he decides who is the culprit. He does not have an outline or plan for his novels, nor character profiles.

He described the recent TV episodes with Stephen Tompkinson playing Alan Banks as two hours of mindless entertainment. He finds the TV version not to be the way he would do it. He believes Tompkinson is growing into the part but is too tall to be the Banks he wrote about.

The Eastvale location is based on a combination of Richmond and Ripon; TV scenes use Otley, near Leeds.

His best place for writing is in a cottage overlooking a lake north of Toronto. At Richmond he writes in the guest bedroom. He is not one to write while travelling or in hotels.

His next Banks book is to be based in Tallin, Estonia with the title ‘Watch in the Dark’ about a girl who goes missing while on a hen party in the city.

When asked how many drafts he produces before a novel is complete, Peter said his first draft has already been revised as he goes back to change details as he goes along. He may produce a further draft before the book is read by his wife, and his editors. The final version will then go to the copy editors. Effectively he has three goes at each book. He finds that writing with computers encourages you to make revisions as you go along.

When asked about his favourite authors Peter mentioned Michael Connelly, Mark Billingham and Ian Rankin. He mentioned specifically ‘The Greatcoat’ a ghost story by Helen Dunmore. He uses a Kindle for convenience while travelling, but agrees the e-readers will not replace books. Peter is also reading Alan Hunter’s books featuring the detective George Gently and stressed that the TV stories are nothing like the book.

‘Before the Poison’ is to be published in hardback in the USA on 7 February.


Karen S. said...

This is so my kind of special day! I've been going to libraries since the days of my childhood that I can barely remember...and funny thing in 6th grade I started taking myself to the library by bus nearly every Saturday....just an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many books taking you to so many places! Great post Bob!

DW96 said...

Fascinating piece.

According to one version, Peter, who has the same surname as me, was born not two miles from me, two months after me. But while I concentrated on wine, women and song (aka booze, birds and Beatles) he applied himself.

I was interested to read that he doesn’t know how the killer is when he sets out. I always know… but the book usually changes my mind half way through.

Also, aside from typos, like Peter, I never make more than 3 or 4 passes on a work.

Great article, Bob.