Once Upon a True Crime: Meet the Authors – Peter James

Author Peter James

Peter James is one of the UK’s most recognised crime authors, with awards and regular spots on the bestselling novels lists. While writing his novel Babes in the Wood, James worked with former Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, to examine and retell the 1986 case of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway.

Early life

James was born on 22nd August 1948 in Brighton, where many of his tales are set. It was at school that his writing was first recognised. He went to Charterhouse School in Surrey and won a poetry prize in 1967. After Charterhouse, James chose to study at Ravensbourne Film School and focused on his love of writing for the screen. He has continued to write screenplays but has since become best known for his crime and thriller novels.

Notable works and awards

James has written 35 novels and two non-fiction books, but his most popular work is the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. It has led to him receiving 19 consecutive Sunday Times number-one bestselling titles and fans are always excited when a new Grace novel is on the cards. He has won over 40 awards for his work including the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger.

Unexpected plots and sinister characters typify James’ novels and he’s also well-known for the accurate representations of crime, the police, and murder investigations. He received a Sussex Police Outstanding Public Service Award in 2012. His commitment to accuracy in his work meant that he worked closely with the Sussex Police on many occasions and has been involved in many initiatives with the force. This includes participating in the Sussex Police Rape Prevention team’s think tank for improving messaging around date rape education for school children.

James’ works are often adapted for stage and screen, including the ITV-produced Babes in the Wood documentary.

Babes in the Wood

‘Babes in the Wood’ was the media name given to the murders of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway. On 9th October 1986, the two nine-year-old girls were killed by local roofer Russell Bishop in Brighton’s Wild Park. Bishop was tried and acquitted in 1987, with the case remaining open until December 2018. On 10th December 2018, Bishop was finally found guilty of the murders in the second trial. The case represents the largest and longest-running case in the history of the Sussex Police. Working alongside former senior detective Graham Bartlett, James’ true crime work, Babes in the Wood, combines police procedural with insight and analysis into Bishop.

Babes in the Wood draws on unique access to the officers involved in catching the killer. James and Bartlett’s work brings together the compelling inside story of how the investigation was run. It looks at how the police tightened their grip on Russell Bishop and the shocking and infamous moment where he was acquitted. It was only due to Bartlett working on a child abduction case where Bishop’s name was once again mentioned, that the wheels started turning and the police once again captured Bishop. The second time around they seemingly made no mistakes and ensured he paid for all the crimes he committed.

Peter James’ close connections with the Sussex police allowed Babes in the Wood to paint a fascinating true picture of the events of the murders in 1986, until Bishop’s conviction in 2018.