John Simm plays DSI Grace in new drama

Sunday:Grace; (ITV, 8pm)

DS Roy Grace and DS Branson
DS Roy Grace and DS Branson

There are some big names in the world of modern crime writing.

The likes of Val McDermid and Mark Billingham loom large, while JK Rowling, using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, has penned her fair share of blockbusters too.

But for some, nobody does it better than Peter James, so it came as no surprise when ITV announced it was adapting his books about Brighton-based DSI Roy Grace for the small screen. In fact, the only shock was that it took someone so long to do so.

The author himself was as pleased as punch when John Simm was cast in the leading role: “John Simm, who actually looks like the Roy Grace of my imagination, is inspired casting! With John in the lead, the brilliant scripting by Russell Lewis, and our wonderful production team, I’m confident that fans of my novels and of TV crime dramas in general will be in for a treat.”

Fans of the genre may also be aware that Lewis has worked on many top-class thrillers since swapping acting for writing, including Inspector Morse, Lewis, Kavanagh QC and Taggart; he also devised Endeavour and has written every episode of the Morse prequel to date. As a result, it was clear from the off that Grace was in good hands.

“Each story is a fantastic, hair-raising, twisting, switch-back of a roller-coaster ride that grips the reader from first to last, and the opportunity to translate that best-selling magic to television is like all one’s Christmases and birthdays come at once,” claims Lewis.

“As his millions of fans and admirers are well aware, Peter’s meticulous research and eye for detail is the stuff of legend. His long established, close relationship with the police, taken together with a knowledge of Brighton and the South Coast that is the sole preserve of the born and bred lends his stories an unimpeachable veracity of place and procedure.”

“It would have been crazy for me to turn down such a brilliant opportunity to play a lead for ITV in a best-selling detective series,” adds Simm. “It is just such a great part. I was doing Macbeth in Chichester when I got the call. My agent said, ‘Have you read these Peter James’ books?’

“I immediately bought the first two novels and I couldn’t put them down so I knew what a fantastic role it would be to play. I’m a voracious reader, but had never read a lot of crime fiction before. Once I started reading the novels I couldn’t stop. They are very clever and Peter is brilliant at what he does.”

The first instalment aired last year and went down so well that more were quickly commissioned. The second, Looking Good Dead, is heading out way this week. It sees Grace and his sidekick Glenn Branson searching for the villains behind a brutal murder who are also threatening the family of its only witness.

Three more titles have now been filmed too – Not Dead Enough, which guest stars former Doctor Who actor Arthur Darvill, Dead Man’s Footsteps and Dead Tomorrow – and are heading our way soon.

The good news is that although five books have now been filmed, there’s plenty more material where they came from – James has already published another 13 Roy Grace novels, with the next in the series, Picture You Dead, due for publication in September.