Wills Crofts, a railway engineer turned author, was a peer of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler and was thought to be highly regarded by these writers.
Set in 1920s Ireland, Scotland and England, Inspector French is a dogged world-class detective banished from Scotland Yard to post-partition Northern Ireland where he battles to introduce modern policing techniques to a reluctant force.
Books include Inspector French’s Greatest Case, Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery and Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy.
Foley, who recently wrote John Simm-fronted Finnish political drama Cold Courage for Viaplay and Lionsgate, initially tracked down the rights to Crofts’ books at the Society of Authors before penning a script.
He told Deadline that the adaptation would be “as if Peaky Blinders invaded Downton Abbey”. The project was initially developed with BBC Northern Ireland, which commissioned Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan’s The Fall, with Game of Thrones funder Northern Ireland Screen, via Farmoor.
It is the latest detective drama for British indie Free@Last TV, which is run by Barry Ryan and David Walton. The company produces Ashley Jensen-fronted Agatha Raisin for Acorn TV and recently struck a deal with Harper Collins and Quadrant to develop TV movies and series from some of the 50+ books in the Classic Crime Club imprint.
“Crofts was a Belfast railway engineer who became a bestselling crime author and close friend of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. Critics describe him as ‘the father of the police procedural’, TS Eliot was a fan, and Raymond Chandler described him as ‘the soundest builder of them all’,” said Foley. “The backdrop to Inspector French’s investigations are the great houses and factories of the new industrialists as well as the mean streets of Belfast and the country estates of the fading aristocracy,” said Foley.
Ryan said that Free@Last will start discussions with distributors over the coming weeks.
“The series is crammed with interesting characters, none more-so than the Inspector himself who hides secrets of his own even as he cracks cases. That, together with the really extensive IP of more than 20 bestsellers, is a great base to build on,” he added.
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