Best-selling author David Peace has made a career of turning fact into fiction. He talks murder, mystery and Brian Clough to Laura Davis
BOXES of documents detailing 1970s murders and photocopied newspaper clippings surround the desk where David Peace hand-writes his novels in lined exercise books.
The best-selling author has returned to his Yorkshire home to write a series about Japan, having spent 15 years in Japan writing about Yorkshire.
There he penned the Damned United, about football manager Brian Clough’s 44 days with Leeds; the Red Riding quartet, crime stories with the Ripper murders as a backdrop; and GB84 about the Miners’ Strike.
“The distance gave me perspective,” says Peace, who is appearing at the Shell Chester Literature Festival later this month.
“There’s that old cliché that you should write about what you know and what I knew was growing up in the 1970s and early 80s.
“I wanted to understand the time and place I grew up in.”
After graduating from Manchester Polytechnic in 1991, he spent two years teaching English as a foreign language in Istanbul, to pay off his student debts, before moving to a similar job in Japan.
The two books he had penned as a student had been rejected before Peace left Britain and he had felt unable to write while in Turkey.
But, finding himself with few friends in a strange city, he spent his spare time creating the first Red Riding crime novel, Nineteen Seventy-Four.
“It was the most fictional of the books in that there weren’t any child murders in 1974 in Yorkshire,” says the 42-year-old writer.
“But the setting, in terms of the landscape and the news stories and the music and the prices – that is all accurate.”
Peace spent hours meticulously researching the 12-day period that the book frames, both in Tokyo’s National Library and through newspaper clippings that his mum sent over from Yorkshire.
“Local papers and particularly the classified sections are where you really get your research from,” he says.
“To me, it’s fascinating what people are buying and selling and for how much.
“I think that’s how you get to know what a place and time was really like.”
There were eight years between his first experience of rejection and the publication of Nineteen Seventy-Four, in 1999.
But the book was a hit and three more Red Riding stories quickly followed it.
Peace’s research has escalated with each of his works, but his childhood has continued to provide inspiration.
The Damned United, which was released as a film earlier this year, started out life as a novel about the history of Leeds United.