Master writer Peter keeps on running after 50 years

By Toby Neal | Features | Published: | Last Updated:

Fifty years – that's quite a run for internationally-acclaimed Shropshire author Peter Lovesey, who has delved into the world of athletics for many of his crime novels.

Peter with his 'Edgar' and his latest book 'The Finisher.'

Now 83, he has received a lifetime achievement award from the New York-based Mystery Writers of America.

"I'm now known as a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America," says Peter, who moved to Shrewsbury about three years ago.

"I went out to Texas last year for a big convention in Dallas and they gave me this nice award, a little bust of Edgar Allan Poe – it's called an Edgar.

"In England I was given a Diamond Dagger, which is a similar thing for long service. Being recognised by your peers is very gratifying."

With half a century of writing under his belt – in this golden jubilee year his latest work is called The Finisher – it has been a marathon rather than a sprint.

Czech runner Emil Zatopek, right, in the lead at the 1948 London Olympics.

"It started in 1970 with Wobble To Death when I was lucky enough to win a contest for a first crime novel. That sort of got me started.

"It was set in Victorian times. I knew a lot about running, and there was a strange Victorian long distance indoors race which went on for six days in the agricultural hall in London. I was lucky enough to win the prize which was £1,000, which was more than my salary, it was that long ago. I was in further education.


"I have been writing full-time since 1975. My books are not all on running. I started with running, and The Finisher is on running, but in between my books have had a whole variety of crimes being investigated in them."

He has also written non-fiction, including the centenary history of the Amateur Athletic Association in 1979.

Brought up in the London area, his passion was sparked when as a child he was taken to see the 1948 Olympic Games in the city.

"I was very excited by it all. That sowed the seed," he added.


Later he wrote regular articles for a magazine which led to him being dubbed the world’s foremost authority on the history of athletics – "In truth, I was the world’s only authority."

One of his novels, Goldengirl, written under the name Peter Lear and about the exploitation of a female athlete taking part in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was made into a movie starring Susan Anton and had a cast that included James Coburn, Curt Jurgens and Leslie Caron.

"The bad news was that in real life the Russians marched into Afghanistan and the Americans boycotted the Olympics in protest, so Goldengirl, the film, never went on general release."

Correspondence with Harold Abrahams, the British 1924 Olympic sprint champion whose exploits were featured in the movie Chariots Of Fire, led to friendship.

The legendary Harold Abrahams once raced in St Georges

"Before long he was visiting us and became a family friend and almost an uncle to my children," he adds.

Abrahams once ran at St Georges, although Peter has not researched the background to this Shropshire appearance of the running legend.

"Somebody wrote to me about it," he said. "I think it was probably in 1924 before he went to the Olympic Games. I don't know the full story. It's something I would like to follow up on."

Peter makes no claims to any athletics prowess himself.

"I was hopeless at running at school. I was coming in last," he admits. "Maybe it was wish fulfilment writing about it and trying to identify with people who could do it well. That was my way in to a sport I found fascinating."

Nor does he do any particular exercise: "I'm glad to be standing up," he admits.

As to athletes he most admires, he picks out Emil Zatopek, a Czech long distance runner who competed in the 1948 London Olympics.

"He also appeared at the next Olympic Games in 1952 and won three gold medals in the 5,000 metres, 10,000, and then decided he was going in for the marathon and won that as well. He was an absolute hero. Nobody has ever touched that feat."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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