James Runcie speaks at the Book Festival

James Runcie speaks at the Book Festival

Crime novelist James Runcie "might" revisit his Grantchester Mysteries series to cover the Thatcher era. The 6th book, Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love, takes place in the late 1970s, shortly before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, but the bestselling author said he “might come back” to the 1980s.

“I remember those times and obviously we had some contentious moments,” he told the Book Festival audience, a reference to clashes between Mrs Thatcher and his late father Robert Runcie, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the same period.

James Runcie said it had been suggested his Grantchester Mysteries should conclude with the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, over which his father presided, but he worried about becoming too “self-indulgent”.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie often clashed with Mrs Thatcher, most notably when the Church of England’s 1985 Faith in the City report criticised the government’s handling of social problems in Britain’s inner cities.

James Runcie is currently working on a prequel to The Grantchester Mysteries, covering the period 1943-51, but admitted he “found it really hard” to capture accurately wartime dialogue.

Asked about his father by event chair Allan Little, Runcie said there was “lots of him” in the Sydney Chambers character, but also “lots of it is me”.

Adapted by ITV as a prime-time television series in 2014, Runcie said he had acted as a consultant on the broadcast version but did not “really have much to do with it”.

He also spoke about his childhood at a theological seminary, where he said the Church of England was “phobic” about homosexuality and the ordination of women. Today, he joked, the Church was “mainly sustained by homosexuals and women”, without which it would be “entirely ruined”.

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