I’m an enthusiastic reader of crime fiction, but not just crime. Science-fiction, fantasy and a lot of period drama. I have also, on occasions, dipped into the works of historic non-fiction. However, my passion has always been a good murder mystery! I have copies of all the Sherlock Holmes cases, and nearly all the Agatha Christie’s Poirot (short stories and complete novels). I have tinkered with various ideas for a crime story of my own, and when I sat down and set about the task of having someone murdered (in print!) the story of Sir Laurence Gregson was born.
Now, before I could murder him, I had to understand him. This then led me to develop the character of Doctor Straay. I choose a Dutchman purely and simply because I had been to Holland many times, I have friends there, and I love the Dutch, so it was natural that I should gravitate in that direction.
The idea of having both a police detective and a “consulting” detective who were both clever in their own way appealed to me very much. Practically all stories I read in this genre have either one or the other. If it’s a story about a police detective, let’s choose Inspector “Jack” Frost for this example, then he is the one who solves the crimes. If it’s Poirot, or Sherlock Holmes, or Miss Marple, then 9 times out of 10, the official police are depicted as well, incompetent to be mild. Even in early Poirot stories, Chief Inspector James Japp is considered a little dim (how did Japp get promoted beyond Sergeant?) and the less said about Inspector Lestrade the better. I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. I also didn’t want some idiot sidekick either.
So who is Doctor Pieter Straay? Well, he’s a 1930’s Criminal Psychologist. People have asked me why I made him that profession? I decided early on that I liked psychology in crime fiction and I wanted my detective to be irregular. Not an ex-policeman, not a policeman, and certainly not am amateur sleuth with no credibility. He had to have been employed in the profession in some way, and he obviously had to have excelled at it. There you have it; two detectives, both intelligent, but one able to think outside the box a little, thus enabling him to come up with ideas that don’t follow conformed patterns. That’s my detective. A man who isn’t a slave to procedure!