After creating Jane Tennison, the character played by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, Lynda La Plante has gone on to introduce another strong female detective in Anna Travis.
She is the heroine of the Above Suspicion series and the writer is coming to Sheffield next month in a pre-Off the Shelf festival event, sponsored by The Star, to talk about Wrongful Death, the ninth and latest Anna Travis novel.
There’s a strong American element to this particular story and it is surely no coincidence that La Plante herself spends a lot of time in the US and in fact was over there at the time of talking.
“Wrongful Death brings in a US profiler, a very experienced detective trained at Quantico FBI,” she explains. “I felt it would be very interesting to judge how the US detective approaches the legal differences and to use the same premise for moving DCI Anna Travis to train in Quantico.
“It is basically to complete an earlier story that created the character Anthony Fitzpatrick, a notorious and dangerous drug dealer who escaped arrest. He was the ‘one that got away’ and in this novel we see the repercussions.”
As to what La Plante is up to in America, she says she is working on her next novel. and chooses to go out there – once she has completed research and blocked out the storylines – to write away from such distractions as productions and casting. That said she is also working on a new pilot series for the US networks ready for the next season.
With her best-known series Prime Suspect La Plante can take credit for introducing the first of a line of tough female cops in British fiction.
“The character of Jane Tennison was based on a real detective, and it was very much down to her advice and encouragement that she became such a huge success,” says the writer.
“It did become almost a template for all future female detectives, and showed clearly the difficulties faced in working alongside a very male-dominated world,” she agrees.
“I think today discrimination still exists but not in such a blatant way. All my female characters have been based on real professional women, such as The Governor, but I have also written numerous series with male leads like Civvies and Comics, and the long-running Trial and Retribution featured strong leading men, ditto Above Suspicion.”
For a crime writer is there an advantage in creating a character who goes from book to book – to create a brand, even – and is it deemed more important in today’s publishing world?
“I don’t know if I would encourage creating a character to appear in a whole series of books because to set out with that intention may well cramp the style,” she replies. “However if the character as written has a longevity, and becomes fascinating and the readers want to know more then it is obviously a productive way to continue.
“When I wrote the first series of Prime Suspect I had no intention of it being or becoming such a long running series
“I enjoy having to build a future growth for a creation, and it has proved to be a very successful for many crime writers.”
Lynda La Plante started out as an actress and never dreamed of becoming a writer.
“I was predominantly a stage actress, but when the opportunity arose to write Widows (the 1983 ITV drama about a group of wives who turn to crime while their husbands are in jail), I discovered that it was far more interesting and enjoyable to be in control. The success of the three series of Widows proved that my acting experience was invaluable for casting.
“Eventually I no longer had any inclination to return to acting as a career, but had become a fully fledged writer. I was eager to gain even more control and so I began to produce my own projects.
“I opened La Plante Productions, producing, casting and hiring crew and directors. I always hired good strong- line producers to guide me through and learned how to handle budgets.
Lynda La Plante will be appearing at the Showroom on September 9 .
Wrongful Death is published by Simon & Schuster at £18.99. Tickets for Lynda La Plante are £8.50/£7 are available now on 0114 2757727.