Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Packs

Neil Cross

Charged with the daunting task of creating "a modern detective icon", Neil Cross says: "Luckily, I had the idea of this complex character who became John Luther.

"Writing Luther was a very different experience for me, primarily because of the scale and the responsibility of it. It was a very enjoyable challenge but it was very different.

"Anyone who's watched television will know that the history of television is littered with iconic detectives. So finding something new was a big ask."

But not impossible - as Neil reveals how he came up with the Luther concept.

"In crime fiction there are two broad genres – one is the mystery genre, the puzzle-solving genre, and that's where there tends to be a genius detective, a lone maverick, or an eccentric. This is the tradition best exemplified by people like Sherlock Holmes.

"The second tradition involves a much more morally committed, a much more beaten and bruised central hero figure. That's the tradition best exemplified by people like Philip Marlowe. What I have never seen, what I've never read or seen on television, was a character who exemplified both of these primary traits."

So the idea for DCI John Luther began to form, but what about the rest of the series?

"It was the character who came to me first, this man who exemplified this distant intellectual puzzle-solving detective, married with this kind of bruised moral crusader.

"It seemed to me that the best way for us really to engage with him, and to see his world through his eyes, was to see the moral outrages that he deals with – in order to understand the cost that these crimes have on him. To that end I took a leaf from Detective Columbo's book and made the story not a 'whodunnit?', but a 'how catch him?'

"We see the brutality, we see the violence, we see the aftermath and then we see Luther going after his criminal. We see his brilliance, his frustration, his anger, we see his insight and we also often see his moral compromise."

Coming from a mostly novel-writing background, the experience of writing a complete television series was something new for Cross.

"Luther is really my biggest single project. It's my first show on British television – I've created and wrote in its entirety. So the potential for embarrassment for falling flat on my face was enormous The first four months was pure fear."

Neil describes how seeing it all come together has been quite an experience.

"We attracted the most remarkable cast and, seeing how they took these characters and breathe life into them, made them real and made Luther's world a real world - a three-dimensional proper world full of real people, was magnificent to behold."

When asked about his favourite TV programmes, Neil seems initially reluctant to answer.

"I've spent far, far too much of my life watching television. So from all of those tens of thousands of hours of viewing it would be a terrifying for me to single out my favourite ever shows.

"As soon as I start to name one I get half a dozen more, there are hundreds and hundreds of television shows which I love."

When pressed, he admits "David Tenant as the 10th Doctor, I think for a long time, was the best television show in the world. The Wire is a landmark in the history of television – which is part of the reason it was so exciting to have Idris Elba playing Luther. Other favourites included The Shield, Coronation Street, The Simpsons and The West Wing."

Neil's literary influences have changed little throughout the course of his life.

"The funny thing about me and my narrative touchstones, and the books which formed me, is that my tastes haven't changed that much. It was my step-father who introduced me to books, he brought me Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson, and a whole bunch of children's classics from that era: Tom Sawyer, Little Women, by Louisa M Alcott, which I adored at the time, also The Three Musketeers, The Count Of Monte Cristo."

Neil also confesses he avoids hero-worshipping any real-life people.

"I don't have any real-life heroes. I've had the opportunity to meet several people that I admire over the last 20 odd years, and to the first approximation they've all been enormous disappointments. I think having fictional heroes is one of the secrets of a happy life."

To top

Press releases by date:

Press release by:

RSS feeds:

Related BBC links

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.