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Interview: The author behind ITV's 'Grantchester' on his Cambridge childhood and why his dad is no Sidney Chambers

James Runcie wrote 'The Grantchester Mysteries'. Photo: ITV News Anglia

ITV News Anglia's Claire McGlasson talks to James Runcie, the author of the books the Grantchester series is based on:

The author who wrote 'The Grantchester Mysteries' still can’t quite believe his stories have been made into an ITV drama.

James Runcie stops to point out the locations of his invented murders and clandestine meetings as we stroll around Cambridge in the sunshine.

James Runcie and ITV News Anglia's Claire McGlasson chat about the series. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Actors Robson Green and James Norton have been causing quite a stir filming key scenes for the new six-part series in the city centre.

But the author who created it all can wander around unnoticed.

James can still wander around Cambridge unnoticed. Credit: ITV News Anglia

“I wanted it to feel a very period kind of drama that is subverted by darkness and comedy.

Colleges, dark halls, secret meetings, tiny bedrooms, high table – all those kinds of things lend themselves to conspiracy.”

– James Runcie, 'The Grantchester Mysteries' author

Our walk takes us along King’s Parade where James points out a window above number 21, the flat where he was born.

James shows Claire where he was born. Credit: ITV News Anglia

“I didn’t have a cot to begin with.

I was put out in the window box for fresh air and I was put out in a little pram outside Great St Mary’s so I infused the air of Cambridge from my very babyhood.”

– James Runcie, 'The Grantchester Mysteries' author

Putting aside the obvious health and safety implications, James spins a great yarn.

The line between fact and fiction is one that is often blurred, even in 'The Grantchester Mysteries.'

The hero of the stories, Sidney Chambers, bearing a striking resemblance to his real father, former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.

James Runcie's dad, Robert Runcie (left). Credit: James Runcie

I ask him whether viewers tuning into ITV are watching a version of his father.

“Sidney in many ways is a version of my dad in the sense that he was born in the same year, 1921. He fought in the Scots Guards during the war and he became a clergyman – and so did my father – so those biographical details are the same.

But he didn’t go around solving murders or flirting with local women.

It’s using a clergyman as a starting point and the idea is that Sidney can go into places where the police can’t.”

– James Runcie, 'The Grantchester Mysteries' author

His stories are mysteries of morality solved by a vicar facing dilemmas of his own.

Sidney Chambers is a man of the cloth with a taste for whisky, a love of jazz and an eye for pretty parishioners.

Sidney Chambers, played by James Norton. Credit: ITV

So how does James feel to hand his creation over to a scriptwriter?

“It’s very weird. (The stories) are mine and they are not mine. You have to give them away.

They are like children. You have to let them grow up.”

– James Runcie, 'The Grantchester Mysteries' author

Grantchester continues on ITV1 on Monday at 9pm.

Click below to see more of Claire's chat with James

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