James is the author of six novels with Jonathan Cape. The first, A White Merc With Fins (1996), was a Sunday Times bestseller, as was his second, Rancid Aluminium (1997). This was filmed, starring Joseph Fiennes, whilst Michael Sheen starred in the adaptation of his third novel Dead Long Enough (2000). His study of Kafka - Excavating Kafka - (“absolutely brilliant and utterly infuriating” Guardian, 2008) was the basis of a BBC documentary televised in November 2008. In 2018 his "The Shortest History of Germany" reached #2 in the Sunday Times bestsellers; in 2021 "The Shortest History of Emgland" made #4 in The Times bestsellers.
James is currently working as "Series Story Consultant" and on-screen talking head on the upcoming landmark 8-part BBCTV history of creativity in these islands, which will be broadcast in April 2022.
James has reviewed in and/or written for every UK broadsheet.