Tuesday 6 July 2010

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson is now one of the leading crime writers, but he certainly paid his dues. He wrote a good many novels about his series detective, Inspector Alan Banks, as well as an excellent stand-alone, Caedmon’s Song, before his talents were widely recognised. When a publisher finally got behind him, and gave his work the marketing push that had previously been lacking, his sales soared.

I started reading Peter’s books shortly after he was published for the first time. They appealed to me a good deal, because they were to some extent in the vein of the kind of story I fancied writing. Before long, I met Peter at a meeting of the Northern Chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association, probably getting on for twenty years ago. Although he was living in Canada at the time, he was born in Yorkshire, and his stories are mainly set in that county. Banks is based in Eastvale, which is a fictional place in the north of Yorkshire, with elements reminiscent of one or two real-life towns.

In addition to his novels, Peter is a prolific writer of short stories of high calibre. I’ve been listening to an audio version of his short story collection The Price of Love, and I’ll post about this before long. With his short fiction, he ranges widely in his settings and plots, and I suspect that, like many of us, he finds the ‘break’ offered by writing a short story or two helps to keep him fresh in between novels.

I last bumped into Peter a couple of years ago at the Harrogate Festival, at a party to celebrate 21 years of Alan Banks mysteries. It was a lively and well-attended event, and a good illustration of how a writer who keeps working hard may, after a number of years, finally hit the jackpot. Like Ian Rankin, Andrew Taylor and Ann Cleeves, he was by no means an overnight success. But like them, he richly deserves the success he has achieved on the back of a long run of soundly written and entertaining mysteries.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for featuring Peter Robinson. He is, indeed, a very talented writer. I have to say I really enjoy his Alan Banks novels, and it's good to learn a little more about him.

Janet O'Kane said...

I'm a big fan of Peter's books, my favourite being 'The summer that never was'.
Coincidentally, I'm going to my book group's summer meeting tonight armed with one of his more recent novels, as we've been asked to speak about music in writing. Peter is the only writer I've come across who publishes playlists for some of his books. A good excuse to play a track by Maria Muldaur, who's mentioned in 'Friend of the Devil'

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments.
Janet, I haven't read The Summer that Never Was. Must do so, obviously!
I like the playlist idea a lot, and I've thought about doing playlists myself. I don't remember MM being mentioned in Friend of the Devil - presumably for Midnight at the Oasis?

Janet O'Kane said...

Actually the MM track in the book is 'Buckets of Rain', but I'm not familiar with that, so I played 'Oasis'. It's one of my all-time favourites, dating back (I can't believe it) to 1972.
Out of curiosity I asked if any of the group members had heard of Peter Robinson, and no one had. Sad that someone with such a fine body of work behind him isn't better known.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

As you probably know, Martin, Peter is a superb short story writer. I recommend that readers pick up his _Not Safe After Dark and Other Stories_:


Martin Edwards said...

Janet, I don't know that MM track. Maybe ought to seek it out.
Elizabeth, yes, he is very good at short stories

Alistair Macfarlane said...

I have been a fan of Peter Robinson for a long time. I find the pacing of his books similar to your own. Growing up in the Lake Distrct and spending many hours driving around Yorkshire make yours and Peters books more enjoyable for me. Living in Toronto now, I'm surprised I haven't bumped into him.... :-)

Minnie said...

Glad to see more mention of this superb writer. Have, I think, read everything - bar the short stories (saving them for a PR drought!) - and love the way he incorporates music and literary references or, for that matter, plots ('Othello' in the last one).