Third Degree: Peter Robinson

PETER ROBINSON is the author of the Inspector Banks novels – the fourth series of which has just started on ITV (see the post below). A multi-award-winning novelist, he was born in Yorkshire and now divides his time between Toronto and Richmond, North Yorkshire. We brought him in for questioning, and here he makes a full and frank confession of his criminal viewing and reading habits…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Oldies. Prime Suspect, Cracker, Trial and Retribution, Inspector Morse and Poirot, but they’re no longer running.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
I’m enjoying Lilyhammer at the moment. Before that it was Breaking Bad.

Are there any good Canadian TV crime series we should know about?
No. There used to be Night Heat and DaVinci’s Inquest, which were pretty good, but none I know of these days.

Top TV cop?
Morse.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
I’m looking forward to Bosch. There’s been a pilot and I think there’s a series on the way [just started on Netflix]. It would be interesting to see William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw on TV, and some of Bill Knox.

DCI Banks has just returned to ITV for a fourth series. What is it like to see your hero being transformed into a TV series?
It’s a process of loss. I thought the first few books adapted were relatively close to the originals, even though Annie disappeared and returned as a single mother and DI Helen Morton, a character I never wrote about, was added to the cast. Then DS Winsome Jackman disappeared, to be replaced by Tariq. The adaptations themselves were almost unrecognisable by the third series, and in the fourth Left Bank will be going with original stories. But if you take any expectations of fidelity to the original plots out of the equation, I think it’s a pretty damn good cop series.

DCI BANKS SERIES 4. ANDREA LOWE as DS Annie Cabot and STEPHEN TOMPKINSON as DCI Banks
Stephen Tompkinson and Andrea Lowe in ITV’s DCI Banks


How involved are you in the making of the series?
Not much, though I have enjoyed being on set and I do get to look at the treatments and scripts before filming. I make occasional minor suggestions for changes, and sometimes they even listen to me!

Do you have a guilty pleasure on TV?
Nothing I feel guilty about. I like action movies, such as Bond, Bourne, Jack Ryan, Dirty Harry and so on, but I don’t feel guilty about those, either.

Least favourite cop show/thriller?
I didn’t like Broadchurch all that much.

Do you prefer The Sopranos, The Wire or Breaking Bad?
They’re all top notch, but I think Breaking Bad—perhaps because it’s the one I’ve watched most recently. I must go back and watch the others again.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
Sherlock Holmes (but not Sherlock).

US, British or Euro television crime dramas?
Very hard to say. All three, really. I like European series such as Spiral, Wallander, The Killing and the short-lived Those Who Kill – but the US does a great job in the Law & Order franchise, especially SVU, and HBO and now Netflix are doing some excellent stuff, like Boardwalk Empire and Lilyhammer. Of course, the British have Morse, Frost, Holmes, Poirot, George Gently, Dalgliesh, Wexford and so on.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
I still enjoy the European writers I started on — Sjowall and Wahloo, Georges Simenon, Nicolas Freeling’s Van der Valk. I also enjoy US hardboiled cops and PIs, from Hammett to Connelly, and I’m a huge fan of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James. I still read Christie from time to time, but not so much the other Golden Agers. And I try to keep up to date with my contemporaries and keep an eye out for new writers. I also love espionage fiction—Le Carre, Deighton, Alan Furst, Henry Porter, Charles Cumming and others.

Was there one writer or novel that really turned you into a crime fiction fan?
It was Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister.


Have you read a crime novel that’s really knocked you out lately?
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was probably the last one I found unable to put down. And I enjoyed Tana French’s The Secret Place very much. I seem to have got behind on James Lee Burke, so I’m looking forward to catching up with his last three or four this year.

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Thomas Hardy.

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
It’s a tie: The Third Man and Chinatown.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
Maigret.

Peter’s 22nd Inspector Banks mystery, Abattoir Blues, is now available in paperback. And his website is packed with interesting details, including musical playlists, about his fictional detective – inspectorbanks.com

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