Picking up the phone 30 years ago, little did author Peter James know it would be the start of his latest book Absolute Proof.
“On the phone was a Second World War pilot and he said he had proof that God existed and wanted me to help him get heard,” recalls Peter.
It started after the man, called Harry, visited a medium to contact his wife who had recently died from cancer. However, instead a man came through claiming to be a representative of God.
“He told Harry he was unhappy about the state of the world and wanted it put on an even keel and he was told three things that nobody on this Earth could know,” explains Peter.
“Harry was told to contact me and he explained that he wanted to spend four days with me, but I said I would see him for half-an-hour.”
A date and time was fixed and when he knocked at the door Peter was greeted with a man ‘dressed like a retired bank manager’.
“He had this 1,000 page manuscript which he wouldn’t leave with me but I said this would take four days to read, to which he replied ‘I told you so’. Eventually he left it with me, I got about 20 pages in and lost the will to live.”
On his visit Harry also revealed the three details given to him to prove God’s existence, these were three sets of compass coordinates for the tomb of a pharaoh in Egypt, where the Ark of the Covenant is buried and the holy grail, which was said to be in Chalice Well in Glastonbury.
After an interview with a BBC radio station Peter was talking to the presenter and she brought up her uncle who was a trustee of Chalice Well.
“I love coincidences so I mentioned the story to her and that this guy had used a metal detector and found where he thought the holy grail was but couldn’t get permission to dig. She said she would talk to her uncle but it got me thinking more about what Harry had told me.”
Peter discussed the story with Bishop Dominic Walker, as he says that Dominic was a modern clergyman and his response was that if someone did prove that God existed they would need more than some coordinates but a miracle, and that that person would surely be murdered.
“I just thought this is a great basis for a thriller,” Peter says.
“I started researching different religions, spoke to scientists both who religious and atheist. I went and stayed at a monastery in Greece and one in Sussex and just looked into different beliefs.”
The result is Absolute Proof, which was published in October, it follows newspaper journalist Ross Hunter who receives a call saying they have proof God exists.
The story is told from three viewpoints: Ross’s, a CEO of a pharmaceutical company who wants the DNA of Jesus Christ, and a billionaire evangelist who knows that if God does exist he will be outed as a fraud.
Due to its religious context, the book has been compared to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, even though Peter started work on his years before that blockbuster was published.
“Dan Brown showed there was a market for religious books that were fast-paced thrillers,” he adds.
After the book was released Peter and his wife Lara were invited for a drink with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth House.
“I asked him about what he thought about proving God existed and he replied that he would be out of a job,” laughs Peter.
Although the book is out, Peter feels that researching the subject will never be finished.
As to what became of Harry, Peter received his last letter in 1999, and late found out he died five years ago.
“I met up with his grandchildren after his death and they told me more about him that he was a non-believer and not a flake, they explained how in the war all his colleagues said he was the one they wanted in the cockpit if something went wrong.”
As for what is next for the author his fourth book adaption for the stage The House on Cold Hill, starring Joe McFadden and Rita Simons, comes to Theatre Royal Brighton on March 4.
“The novel is based on a house I used live in which was haunted,” explains Peter.
“The couple do the dream and move from Brighton to a big house in the countryside, they have a 12-year-old daughter who is really unhappy with the move. She is doing FaceTime on her phone to a friend when she asks who the woman behind her is, but when Jade turns around no one is there.
“It is a great play filled with twists and turns.”
There is also another Roy Grace novel out in May called Dead At First Sight.
For more on Peter James, visit www.peterjames.com