Peter Robinson discusses No Cure for Love
Peter Robinson talks about NO CURE FOR LOVE, his fascination and its publication in the UK after many years.
Posted on July 29, 2015 in Guest Author
Tags: Peter Robinson, crime fiction, crime thriller
I was thrilled to hear that Hodder & Stoughton were going to publish No Cure for Love in the UK at last. The book has always been a favourite of mine, and I think it has been unduly neglected since it was first published by Penguin Canada in 1995.
The book came at a low point in my career. Around the mid 90s, my US publisher, Berkeley Prime Crime, dropped me from their list just after the first book of a two book deal was published, leaving my eighth DCI Banks book Innocent Graves, which I considered my best so far, to hang out to dry. My good friend John Harvey invited me to join his US tour for his eighth Charlie Resnick book Easy Meat. I had to pay my own way, of course, but the tour was great fun, and I remember we kicked off at John’s Grill in San Francisco, where Sam Spade ate in The Maltese Falcon.
At the same, my UK publishers Constable were putting out hardback editions in small numbers, with tiny print, thin pages and hyphens in all the wrong places, and just about keeping my head above water over here. There were no paperbacks. For some reason, in one book, “pubic hairs” became “public hairs”!
Neither publisher wanted anything to do with No Cure for Love, a non-series novel written by a Brit and set in Los Angeles.
And so, it came out in Canada alone in 1995 and disappeared with little or no fanfare.
No Cure for Love has its origins in my fascination with Southern California, and Los Angeles in particular, ever since reading Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald in the early 80s. There were the movies too, of course, especially Chinatown. I visited San Francisco in 1988, but it was 1991 before I got to Los Angeles, more specifically Pasadena, for the annual crime writers convention, Bouchercon. Naturally, I wanted to see as much of the area as I could in my short time there, but there was one big drawback. I can’t drive. And as everybody knows, you have to drive to exist in Los Angeles.
One of the great things about the Bouchercon conventions was, and still is, meeting fans. I had no idea that I had readers in Los Angeles who liked, and even collected, my books, but that weekend I found some. A bookseller friend called Karen Ende introduced me to Richard and Barbara Matthews. Richard was a keen collector of crime fiction, with a complete collection of signed Dick Francis first editions in his home, and a growing collection of Peter Robinsons. That Sunday afternoon, Richard and Barbara drove me around Los Angeles and showed me all the sights I had only ever seen in movies or read about in books. It’s easy to be blasé now, after so many years, but back then it was an immense thrill to drive down Sunset Boulevard, see the stars on the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard, stand outside Graumann’s Chinese theatre, have a martini at Musso and Frank’s, drive the streets of Beverley Hills, where Tudor mansions rubbed shoulders with alpine chalets, walk the beach and the pier in Santa Monica—all in glorious Technicolor sunlight. We drove along the winding Laurel Canyon, so central to the rock music history of the 60s, and along Mulholland Drive, Wilshire, La Brea, everywhere. It was one of those magical days you never forget.
After that, I returned to Los Angeles quite often, as much to see my friends as anything else, and the idea of a book set there began to take shape in my mind. It seemed a daunting task, as American isn’t my first language. Still, I’d lived in Canada for a few years by then, so I had at least a passing familiarity with some of the idioms. The rest I could work out with a little help from my friends. Because I was uncomfortable with American dialogue, I decided to have my stalked actress, Sarah Broughton, come from Yorkshire and the main detective, Arvo Hughes, got to Los Angeles via Windsor, Ontario, where I had spent my first couple of years in Canada. Naturally, there were also plenty of American characters in the book, and my Californian friends proved most helpful in reading scenes and pointing out where I went wrong, both in terms of the language and the setting.
I’d known Michael Connelly since his first novel The Black Echo was published in 1992 and he was able to help me get a start by providing a few research contacts. My book was going to be about celebrity stalking, and I discovered there was an entire department of the LAPD dedicated to that problem. Called the Threat Management Unit, they had their headquarters on Spring Street, in downtown Los Angeles. I wrote letters and made phone calls and managed to set up a day of intesnive reaserach.
Richard dropped me off at Parker Center, the old LAPD headquarters, where I met Dennis Payne and tried to get a feel for the working environments of the detectives in Robbery and Homicide. One of the highlights, though definitely a gruesome one, was looking through the original murder book for the Black Dahlia case, complete with typed reports, crime scene photographs and sketches.
After that, I made my way through the downtown streets to Spring Street. It wasn’t exactly the most salubrious of neighbourhoods—there was a definite frisson in the air—and I walked with my head down, avoiding eye contact, my hands buried deep in my pockets. When I finally got to The Threat Management Unit offices, I was asked where I’d parked, and I explained that I didn’t have car. Everyone was nonplussed, and they wanted to know how I’d got there. When I said I’d walked from Parker Center, someone asked me if I had a gun. I said no, of course, and he said he wouldn’t walk around out there unless he was armed!
I had already been in touch with Lieutenant John Lane, who was in charge of the unit at that time, and he had sent me a great deal of useful material on the psychology of stalkers, erotomaniacs and what have you. It was fascinating stuff, and we had a lot to discuss. I also played fly on the wall and watched the detectives at their desks, then asked them what their jobs involved, how they went about investigating incidents. I find that while police are understandably unwilling to give away any secrets or talk about ongoing investigations, they are usually quite happy to talk about procedures and tell stories about old cases.
Fortunately, my friend Richard had offered to pick me up outside the building, so I didn’t have to wander the streets of downtown Los Angeles again. I got more than enough from Lieutenant Lane and his detectives and was very pleased later when he read the book and wrote to me that he had enjoyed it and thought I had done the unit justice. When I wrote it, there was always the chance of a possible series, and the lieutenant offered ongoing help with any questions I might have, but the series was not to be.
Now that Hodder are publishing the book here, and William Morrow have plans to publish it in the US in Spring, 2016, all that may change. Who knows?