Monday, October 29, 2018



I love learning stuff, and one of the best ways to do that, sometimes, is to just listen. Something I learned a long time ago, before I became an author, was that most people you’ll ever meet in life have a story. Maybe it just one story inside them, something that happened to them once, long ago, and just sometimes, if you can just mine it out of them, you have pure gold. So, when I had a phone call out of the blue, back in 1989, from a man claiming to have proof of God’s existence, I didn't immediately replace the receiver, I listened.

Many people I’ve told this story to say they would have hung up, in those first seconds. But if I had done that, I would never have written this book, which has taken me on an incredible 29-year journey, and is the book I’m most proud of and most excited about of all thirty-three novels I have written.

The caller, an elderly sounding gentleman asked if I was Peter James, the author. Hesitantly, I said I was.

‘Thank God I’ve found you!’ he replied. ‘I’ve called every Peter James in the phone book in the South of England, it’s taken me two weeks. My name is Harry Nixon, I assure you I’m not a lunatic, I’m a retired academic, and I was a bomber pilot during the War. This may sound extraordinary, but I’ve been given absolute proof of God’s existence, and I’ve been told, on the highest authority, that you are the man to help me get taken seriously.’

I asked him who exactly it was who had recommended me.

‘Well I’m sure it will sound strange, but I can assure you it was a representative of God. Please hear me out.’

He told me he lived in the Midlands and that his wife had recently passed away from cancer. Before she’d died, they agreed that he would go to a medium to attempt to communicate with her. Some while after her death, he dutifully did this, but instead of his wife, a male claiming to be a representative of God came through.

He told Harry Nixon that God was extremely concerned about the state of the world, and felt that if mankind could have faith in Him reaffirmed, it would help steer us back onto an even keel. As proof of his bona fides, God’s representative had given him three pieces of information no one on earth knew, all of them in the form of compass coordinates: The first was the location of the tomb of Akhenaten, uncle of Tutankhamun and the first monotheist of the pharos. The second was the location of the Holy Grail. And the third was the location of the Ark of the Covenant.

I asked him if he had checked any of these out and he replied, excitedly, that he had indeed. ‘I can’t tell you any more over the phone, Mr James, I need to come and see you. I’m going to need four days of your time.’

I told him that was a pretty big ask! I said I was extremely busy, I could spare him half an hour for a cup of tea and if he could convince me we needed longer, we’d take it from there. We made an arrangement for him to come down the following Tuesday, at 4pm.

On the nanosecond of 4pm the doorbell rang. Standing there was a man in his seventies, holding a large attachĂ© case, who had the air of a retired bank manager. He was dressed in a neat suit, with matching tie and handkerchief and looked at me with sad, rheumy eyes. ‘Thank you for seeing me, Mr James,’ he said, shaking my hand and holding my gaze. ‘You and I have to save the world.’

‘Yep, well, I’ll do my best, I replied.

I made him a cup of tea and sat down with him in the living room. ‘So where do we start?’ I asked him.

He opened his case and removed a manuscript, hundreds of pages thick, bound with an elastic band. ‘We start with you reading this, please.’

I glanced at it, it looked about 1000 pages long, typed with the pages covered in handwritten annotations. ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘Leave it with me.’

He shook his head. ‘I cannot let this out of my sight – this was channeled to me directly from God, through his representative.’

‘So Mr Nixon, you are going to sit there, in that chair, watching me sitting here, reading it all the way through until I’ve finished?’


‘This would take me four days!’

Excitedly he retorted, ‘See, I told you so!’

I replied that either he took a massive leap of faith and left it with me, or he took it back home with him after his cuppa, but there was no way he was going to sit in my home for four days! And, before anything else, could he now answer my question over the phone about whether he had checked out any of the coordinates?

He replied he had indeed. Using his skills learned as a Fleet Air Arm navigator in the War, he now had, so far, the precise location of the lost tomb of Akhenaten in the Valley of the Kings, and the precise location of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail, he told me, was at Chalice Well in Glastonbury. I’d never heard of this place, but I subsequently discovered this wasn't too far-fetched a scenario. Long a holy and mystical site, there is some evidence that Joseph of Arimithea bought the Holy Grail – the chalice used at the Last Supper and to collect Christ’s blood when he was on the cross - to Glastonbury and hid it at Chalice Well.

‘I’ve been dowsing and metal detecting there, and there is something under the ground in the exact position I’ve been given,’ Harry said. ‘Chalice Well is run by a group of trustees – I’ve approached them asking permission to do an archaeological dig at this location, but they won’t take me seriously. But, Mr James, I am sure they would take you seriously.’

Eventually he agreed to leave the manuscript with me, and trundled off into the night. I settled down to start reading – and after about twenty minutes I began to lose the will to live. I was wading through page after page of religious tracts, new age diatribes, and barely legible annotations.

I might have simply returned the manuscript to him the next day, were it not for an extraordinary thing that happened and was to change everything.

By sheer coincidence, the following day I had to go to Bristol to do a BBC radio interview for my then latest novel. When we finished the interview, I carried on chatting for some minutes with the very bright and delightful presenter. Suddenly, out of the blue, she mentioned Chalice Well.

Coincidences have always fascinated me, and her words send a ripple of excitement through me. Twenty-four hours earlier I’d never heard of the place – and now it was twice in two days. ‘What do you know about Chalice Well?’ I asked her.

‘Quite a bit – my uncle’s a trustee,’ he replied.

Astonished and very excited now I told her the story of my encounter with Harry Nixon. She said she would ask her uncle what he knew about the man. I left, feeling very strange – not exactly the chosen one but I had the feeling something was going on, and phoned a good friend of mine, Dominic Walker, who at that time was the Bishop of Reading (he went on to become Bishop of Monmouth and is now retired). I asked if I could come and talk to him.

I should add that Dominic had always struck me as a very modern thinking clergyman, coming from a no-nonsense family – his father was a doctor, his mother a nurse – and he has a brilliant intellect. Over lunch a couple of days later, I told him the story and asked him what he thought.

He thought about it very carefully and said, ‘I think I would want something more than just three sets of compass coordinates to give me proof of God. I would want to see something that defies the laws of physics of the universe – in other words a miracle, and it would need to be a pretty spectacular one.’

‘OK,’ I replied. ‘If someone could deliver that, what then?’

‘You know what I really think if someone could deliver that? I think they would be assassinated. Because whose God would it actually be? You have all the different factions of the Anglican, Catholic, Judaic, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh and all the other monotheist religions in utter disarray. How would China view it or Russia? Would either of them want a higher power usurping their authority? What would the impact actually be on the world?’

As I left, I punched the air with excitement, as I realized I had my story right there! The potential for a truly twisty, global thriller, centered around the biggest question for all mankind.

Twenty-nine years of research later, I’m thrilled to see Absolute Proof published, and equally thrilled that in the US it is an Audible exclusive, brilliantly and compellingly narrated by Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame.

Peter James is the author of the Roy Grace thriller series. He has had 3 smash--hit play adaptations of his work, has hit #1 on the international bestseller list, and was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016

Before writing full time, James lived in the U.S. for a number of years, producing films including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. James’s novella ‘The Perfect Murder’, started its world stage premiere in 2014, and his first Roy Grace novel Dead Simple has now been adapted for stage, and toured the UK in 2015. In 1994, in addition to conventional print publishing, James’s novel Host was published on two floppy discs and is now in the Science Museum as the world’s first electronic novel. 

Famed for his in-depth research, in 2009 James was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Brighton in recognition of his services to literature and the community, and in 2013 he was awarded an Outstanding Public Service Award by Sussex Police with whom he rides along regularly.  He has served as two-times Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and is a board member of the US International Thriller Writers. He has won numerous literary awards, including the publicly voted ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards People’s Bestseller Dagger in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize for Perfect People in 2012. 

James’s novels have been translated into thirty-six languages and three have been turned into films. All of his novels reflect a deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in–depth research and has unprecedented access, as well as science, medicine and the paranormal. A speed junkie, who in his teens was selected to train for the British Olympic Ski Team, he holds an international motor racing license and switches off from work by racing his classic 1965 BMW. James divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill in London and near Brighton in Sussex.

1 comment:

noemi said...

I have been hearing about Peter James for years but now I have to read him, because he obviously knows how to tell a story.