His legal work included a number of years in The Hague as defence counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal.
He lives with his wife, Chris, in Cambridgeshire.
United States. For most of that time I was a professor at a law school in Texas, but I also had a limited practice. In 1998 a former student introduced me to the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, where I practised for almost a decade. In the wake of this experience I returned to England as a judge of the Crown Court and retired in 2015.
specialised subjects tend to write about them. That’s why I began the Ben Schroeder series in London in the early 1960s, a few years before I went to the Bar myself. Ben has now progressed to the mid-1970s, but it’s still a period I knew as a barrister. Writing about a period and a profession I know enables me to write more authentically. More recently, I have published two volumes of humorous short stories, Walden of Bermondsey, and Judge Walden: Back in Session, the hero of which is Charlie Walden, resident judge at the fictitious Bermondsey Crown Court. This is based very much on my own experience as a judge, and indeed as a resident judge.
Peter: Ben actually begins his practice in 1963. This is a few years earlier than I myself began, but I wanted to set the book in the early sixties for a number of reasons, mainly, as I said above, to illustrate the prejudices that existed at the Bar at that time. Fortuitously, when we decided to make Ben the protagonist in a series of crime stories, it enabled me to deal with some historical topics that interested me: capital punishment (A Matter for the Jury); the Cambridge Spies (And is there Honey still for Tea?); terrorism in Wales (The Heirs of Owain Gkyndwr); and a judge whose gambling addiction takes over his life while he is trying a murder case (Calling Down the Storm). The latest (One Law for the Rest of Us) to be published in December 2018, deals with the cover-up of child sexual abuse in the mid-1970s. This, by the way, as the subject matter suggests, is a far darker book and contains a lot of very bad language and graphic sexual scenes – so I’m sure everyone will want to order it without delay! Ben is motivated by two main things: to prove himself in a profession that tried its best to discriminate against him because of his Jewish heritage and his education at the ‘wrong’ school and university; and to use his talents to fight for his clients to the best of his ability in the courtroom.
contemplating undertaking it. To answer the question: there’s no set rule for me as to which comes first, plot or character. Actually, they tend to come together, in the sense that one suggests the other, and both are essential. But planning and research are also essential – before you ever start writing. Most people, if pressed, will tell you that they have an idea for a novel, and they probably do. If you’re naturally creative, you probably have ideas passing through your mind the whole time. But for a novel, you need an idea strong enough to carry the reader through 300-400 pages, and most ideas aren’t that strong. You can combine more than one idea to produce multiple story lines, and some authors, myself included, have done that successfully; but the sum total has to be strong enough. You must have a clear idea of what your story is and how it will develop, before you begin to write, and there will be some research you will have to do. So you need to begin by producing a detailed synopsis, or outline, of 10-15 pages, which summarises the book and introduces both your plot and your characters. Don’t start to write until you’ve completed your preparation and have your outline complete. If you do, your writing won’t go well, and you will inevitably have to go back over it.