Interview with Chris James

[Transcript from Island Radio Broadcast, Palma de Mallorca. April 30, 2015] Today, our guest is Chris James, a former murder squad detective in the UK and author of recently launched novel: "Alchemy: a story of perfect murder". Welcome, Chris.
Thanks, John. Great to be here.
Here's the book, Chris. I gotta say, "WOW!" Just the cover gave my wife nightmares!
It was meant to get attention. Guess it worked!
You know what, I read it and I just cannot believe this is a debut novel. I mean, where are all the typos and goofs? Couldn't find one.
[Laughs] Maybe you didn't look hard enough. No, seriously, it was professionally edited. After reading so many "bad" books out there from self-publishers, I thought that was a wise move. So, I've got my fingers crossed - what did you think of it?
Great, great story. I loved it. You took me back to Victorian London - and I was right there, living it; the way of life, the squalor. Now, I don't want to spoil it for readers, just tell me: How did you come up with such a great story?
I have to admit I was profoundly affected by the film: "Perfume: the story of a murderer". Incidentally, it was one of those cases where, in my opinion, the film was even better than the book. Perfume concerned a young man needing to commit murder to satisfy his infatuation with a special perfume. I had an outline of a story about this young artist on the back burner at the time and, after watching the film, had a Eurika moment - as you do. And so my story evolved.
Yes, I can see the connection now. And there's a taste of "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" in there, too. How are sales going?
Well, I was encouraged when, pre-launch, I offered 10 hard copies free in a draw. Fourteen hundred people put their name down for a copy! I was all ready to order a private jet by the time the book hit the streets.
[Laughs] Easy! Not just yet, boy! You're not going to tell me all fourteen hundred bought it?
I wish! [Laughs] Would have been a great start, wouldn't it? No, I sent out the 10 free copies and then, well... nothing! Nothing happened. And then I began to appreciate just how literary agents and publishing houses earn their money.
So, did you promote it?
I spent some money getting it noticed, yeah. But, better than that, the reviews started coming in - from the 10 people I gifted it to. And they were great, flattering really. That was a pleasant surprise. Only then did sales start trickling through. And more good reviews kept coming.
Good for you! And I can understand the great reviews, Chris! I'll be giving it a good one, too! So, tell us about your background. You were in the murder squad.
Right, well let me admit to not being a young man anymore. No spring chicken. When I was on the murder squad, the Richardsons and the Krays were terrorising London. Those operations involved just about all detectives, serving in and around London. Setting aside the deplorable crimes which these thugs committed, being involved was an exciting time for any young detective.
After things died down and the "big thrill" of those cases wore off, I found myself surrounded by young officers who seemed to be of two types: the keen and the carried. One type would wish that there would soon be another murder, for some excitement, and the others, believe this, were marking on the wall the number of days they had left until retirement. Young men! Sadly, often working through the night, shifts of 15 to 20 hours were not uncommon, then - it cost many detectives their marriage. I felt I would have to leave the police to save mine - and always regretted doing that.
And came to Mallorca.
A few years later, yes. I've been here nine years now.
And how's your Spanish?
I was doing all right until the language teacher told us: Good Morning was masculine and Good Afternoon was feminine. Tell me, who on earth decided that? I'm ashamed to say I don't have much of a vocabulary.
[Laughs] I know what you mean. We English don't have to think about gender, but I've been here 20 years and still get it wrong sometimes. Anyway, back to your writing: When is the next instalment? You've left us begging to know with this ending.
I'm still polishing it but guess it'll be out there in a couple of months.
And will that be it, for Alchemy? Two books?
No. No way. I've three outlined to continue with the characters.
If they're as interesting as the first one - you're certainly onto a winnng formula. Chris, have you any advice for a new writer?
Yes, I have. Get it professionally edited! You would be surprised how the author is blinded by what he has written. Reading through it, dozens of times, looking for corrections, the eye "skims" over errors, the brain "believing" the correct speling was what was on the page. Bit it was not. Read it slowly. Out loud. And then get a professional to read it - and count the errors!
Chris, it's been great to have you on the show. We all wish you every success with your writing!
It was great. Thanks for having me!
Published 2015-05-03.
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