Peter James: Remembering names, meeting a star Recogniser and the Curry Leaf Café in Brighton

PUBLISHED: 15:37 06 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:37 06 May 2016

Peter James with Chef Kanthi Thamma

Peter James with Chef Kanthi Thamma


Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

I have a problem remembering names. In the course of my research and book promotion, I meet a huge number of people – I recently calculated that in the past 12 months I’ve talked to more than 10,000 people across book signings, talks I’ve given and theatre Q&As I’ve attended in the UK alone.

It is particularly hard when I meet someone out of context – for instance, a police officer I’ve only ever seen in uniform, who turns up at a signing in a t-shirt and jeans. One of my ploys to find out his name is to ask, “What name would you like me to write?” But often he – or she – will say, simply, “Mine.” I then reply, “With pleasure – can you just remind me how you spell it?” It works most of the time. Except when I get given the kind of expression reserved for simpletons, as he says, very slowly, “B-O-B”.

I felt a lot better about this after spending a day researching for my next Roy Grace novel, with the recently formed Super Recogniser team at New Scotland Yard, to learn I’m not alone! This was a real eye-opener: Most of us recognise only 23 per cent of faces of people we’ve previously seen. Police officers, with their trained eyes, can only manage a fractionally better 24 per cent. But Super Recognisers – who make up less than one per cent of our population – are able to score upwards of 85 per cent. This amazing ability was first discovered when the police were trying to identify offenders during the 2013 London riots. I spent time with one of their star Recognisers, who showed me how he had correctly identified one perpetrator, in a baseball cap, beard and dark glasses, from a tiny kink in his nose. Astonishingly, these people are 99 per cent more accurate than computer facial recognition software.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a month, with real highs and lows. Funerals, whilst always sad, can also be very uplifting, and none more than the funeral in Ditchling church following the shock sudden death of Martin Smith, husband of the brilliant High Sheriff of East Sussex Juliet Smith, both very dear friends of ours. It was conducted by one of the finest clergmen I’ve met, the Rev David Wallis. Martin’s death was even more of a shock as only weeks earlier we’d been to dinner with them at a truly outstanding Indian restaurant in the centre of Brighton, the Curry Leaf Café. I loved the Curry Leaf’s décor, all exposed brick and natural wood, and the enthusiasm and passion of its award-winning chef-proprietor, Kanthi Thamma (the two of us are pictured above). His cooking is wonderfully innovative and inspirational.

Ever the romantic, my Valentine’s Eve treat to Lara was an 8pm to 6am shift in the back of a Met Police car. Well, we did end up at a rave in the small hours of the morning, but unfortunately raiding it rather than joining in the fun! I did make it up to her on Valentine’s Day itself, when we flew to Dublin for the opening of my play, The Perfect Murder. We stayed at my favourite hotel in the city, the family-owned and gorgeous Westbury, wonderfully luxurious and brilliantly located just off Grafton Street, and had superb fish and seafood in their Wilde restaurant.

Then back up north again to Harrogate, and a quick bite at the town’s institution, Betty’s Tea Room – a wonderful place that has almost become a national treasure – before attending a Royal event in the presence of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Harrogate Festivals in my capacity as Programming Chair of, to give its full title, the 2016 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival there this coming July. Had a fun chat with the Duchess, who I have met a few times before and always find a delight. I first met her at the premiere of The Merchant of Venice back in 2004, on what was her first formal engagement with Prince Charles. Wanting to say something different to the usual dull greeting, I asked her if she was still smoking. Quick as a flash, with a cheeky smile she retorted, “Do you want someone to join you in a fag behind the bike sheds?”

This time she told me she is reading my latest Roy Grace, You Are Dead, and can’t put it down! So I wonder, as my family’s business, Cornelia James, has a Royal Warrant as Glove Maker to her Majesty, whether I should now apply for one as Royal Author?

Peter James’s next Roy Grace novel, Love You Dead, will be published on 19 May, and the paperback of his ghost story, The House On Cold Hill, will be out on 16 June.

He donates his fee for this column to his charitable foundation supporting Sussex charities and this month’s fee will be given to the Sussex Police Charitable Trust.


Peter James: Working as a binman, visiting Little Fish Market and The Perfect Murder in theatre - Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

Peter James: A treasured book, going on a cruise and a nine-course dinner - Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

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