For years Brighton and Hove has been known as a coastal retreat famous dirty weekends and its rock.

But now a group of authors are singlehandedly transforming the city into a murder capital.

Led by international bestseller Peter James, there have been a number of crime novels set in the boundaries of Brighton and Hove that have emerged in recent months.

But Mr James, who’s latest novel Dead Man’s Grip is to be released at the end of this month, said he is not surprised.

He said: “Brighton and Hove has been very under-represented in fiction.

“Before I started writing the Roy Grace novels there was The Gorse Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton and Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, which seems odd given that in 1930s it was called the crime capital of UK and the murder capital of Europe.

“In many ways it’s the perfect setting for a crime book as you have this fantastic vibrant community on the surface but there has always been a dark underbelly.”

Mr James, who lives near Lewes and was a judge alongside Louise Rennison and Kate Mosse at the Sussex Writers Awards on Wednesday, added that the city’s transport links, nearby ports, drug history make it “ideal” for criminals.

Others seeking to seize crime Mr James’ mantle include Peter Guttridge.

He has just delivered the final work, God’s Lonely Man, in his fictional trilogy about bloody murders in Brighton to publishers Severn House before it will go on sale in August.

The author’s most recent work, The Last King of Brighton, released in February, features murders carried out on the South Downs and off the West Pier during the 1960s.

The latest is Danny Miller, a Brighton-based author and screenwriter, who has penned work for hit BBC series Spooks.

Charles Bancroft, who is also based in the city and author of The Architect trilogy, said: “If Peter James owns modern-day Brighton then the murky past clearly belongs to one Graham Greene, so when Miller intriguingly sets his book in Brighton’s long passed seedy underworld, you begin to think he would need to be dead lucky to get anywhere at all.

“But ultimately Miller does not tread on anyone’s toes in Brighton, geography being the only real connection, and he has successfully managed to create a work of complete originality, in his own refreshing style.”