Saturday 30 July 2022

In The St Hilda's Spotlight - Peter May


Name:- Peter May

Job:- Author and former television dramatist

Twitter:- @authorpetermay



Peter May is a scottish author and a naturalised French citizen. He is the author of a number of different series and standalone novels. 

The Blackhouse the first in the Lewis Trilogy was first published in France under the title L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival in 2010 and won the Barry Award for Crime Novel of the Year and the Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE (Readers' prize for best novel by a European author, published in France) in 2011. It was also chosen as one of the Richard and Judy books for the autumn 2011 list. The second book The Lewis Man won the French daily newspaper Le Télégramme's 10,000-euro Grand Prix des Lecteurs, the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival, 2012 and the won the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival. The Chessman, the third book in the trilogy was published in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2014.

In 2014, Entry Island (a standalone novel) won both the Deanston's Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and the UK's ITV Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year Award. It also won the French Trophée 813 for the Best Foreign Crime Novel of the year 2015. In 2021 he was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library which recognises the popularity of an author's body of work with readers and users of libraries.

The Enzo Files are set in France featuring a half scottish, half Italian former forensic scientist, now working as a biology professor. His has written six books in his China thriller series and he is the only westerner to be honoured by the Beijing Chapter of the Chinese Crime Writers Association where he is an honorary member.

His most recent book is The Night Gate which is an Enzo File book. Peter May is currently writing A Winter Grave that is due out in January 2023.

Current book? (This can either be the current book that you are reading or writing)

I am in the production process with my latest book, which will be released next January. I have just gone through the copy-edit and should receive proofs within the next two weeks. “A Winter Grave” is a thriller set in 2051 (the year of my 100th birthday) in a world transformed by climate change. It is largely set in the West Highlands of my native Scotland and I feel that it might be one of my very best.

Favourite book?

The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B” by J.P. Donleavy. I first read this book when I was eighteen, and it profoundly influenced my writing style.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 

Inspector Jules Maigret to discuss the insights into the human condition that made him such a intelligent and compassionate investigator; Charles Latimer, Eric Ambler’s mystery writer in “The Mask if Dimitrious”. I’d love to ask him why he didn’t regard the extraordinary adventures he had just been through as inspirational material for his next book – rather than sitting down at the end of it to write yet another “golden age” murder mystery set in a country mansion.

How do you relax?

Writing and recording music. Music has been one of the great loves of my life, playing in bands from my early teens and into my twenties. Now that I have more time, and a little money, I have been able to install a home recording studio to indulge my passion fully. I will be bringing out an album of original songs later this year.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, because I would love to have lived that life, met those people, experienced those things.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.

Stick at it. No matter how many knockbacks you receive, just keep writing and believe in yourself, even when others don’t.

How would you describe your series characters? 

I have only once set out to write a series – the Enzo Files. My China Thrillers only became a series at the prompting of my publisher. Likewise the Lewis Trilogy. I loved the characters in both those series because through them I was able to explore emotions and experiences, and create the kind of long term relationships I had learned to craft as a writer of TV soap. But Enzo was a character with whom I wholly identified. My age, my cultural background. Scottish, now living in France, and toiling to repair the fractured relationship with his daughter from a previous marriage. We have grown old together, drunk great wine and eaten wonderful food together, entered semi-retirement together, and might one day sit down to discuss a future collaboration.

With Town and Country: Green Lanes to Mean Streets being the theme at St Hilda's this year, Where is your favourite town and where is your favourite country? Why have you chosen these?

My favourite town is Toulouse – La Ville Rose. A wonderful old mediaeval town built of red brick, with a thriving student culture that makes it such a living, vibrant place, even for an oldie like me. My favourite country is the part of rural south-west France where I live. Rolling hills, majestic rivers, forested valleys, ancient stone villages, and a way of life that is laid back and life-affirming.

What are you looking forward to at St Hilda's?

My regret is that I won’t be there in person. Because of this damned pandemic, I’m not ready to travel yet. I love Oxford, and have done several book events there, and I am sad at missing the opportunity to visit a place of such historical importance in the pioneering of women’s rights in education. Happily, due to the wonders of the internet, I will be able to join the audience for a live interactive after my pre-recorded speech, and I’m looking forward to that very much.

The Night Gate by Peter May (Quercus Publishing) Out Now.

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart. Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train - one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown. And Enzo's investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders - the Mona Lisa. Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world's most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons - Hitler and Göring. What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades. Events that have led to both killings. The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020.

A Winter Grave (Quercus Publishing) Out January 2023

2051. The warnings of climate emergency have been ignored and vast areas of the planet are under water, famine and population displacement are now the norm. Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective who has been diagnosed with cancer has been given six months to live when he is ordered to investigate a suspicious finding of a body entombed in ice on a mountain near the village of Kinlochleven. After a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village he meets the pathologist assigned to the perform the autopsy, Sita, an immigrant originally from India. Sita's autopsy establishes that the body, that of a missing journalist George Younger was murdered. She has collected evidence that once put through the DNA database could identify the killer. But after a restless nights sleep Brodie wakes to a crime scene and must race against time to identify the faceless killer.

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