Peter May, Author, Peter May, The Firemaker, Peter May, china thrillers, Peter May, Mystery writer, Peter May, firemaker, US tour 2005
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Author - Peter May
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Biography
Awards
Bibliography and TV Credits
More about The China Thrillers

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"May is described as 'Cruz Smith meets Cornwell'... Raw, like sushi, and recommended."
The Publishing News

Peter May is the author of several standalone novels and two series:
the award-winning China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
the critically-acclaimed Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France.

One of Scotland's most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama.  He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels.

Born and raised in Scotland he now lives in France.
His novels have a large following in France.  He is the recipient of two French book prizes and has been nominated and shortlisted for several others.  His latest book, The Blackhouse is the first of the Lewis Trilogy, and had its worldwide premier publication in France as L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux.

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BIOGRAPHY

From the beginning...

May's childhood dream was to be a novelist and he spent his childhood and teen years writing. 

Scottish Young Journalist of the Year
Journalism seemed like a reasonable career choice for a writer, and no sooner was he in his first post than he won the Scottish Young Journalist of the Year Award at the age of 21.  But the pull of fiction continued, and every spare moment was spent on creative writing.  His dedication was rewarded with the publication of his first novel at the age of 26.  The novel was to become a major BBC television drama series and change the direction of his writing career.

One of Scotland's Most Prolific and Popular TV Dramatists
May left journalism and began writing television drama.  By the age of 30 he had created two major TV series, The Standard and Squadron, for the British television network, the BBC. He went on to garner more than 1000 TV credits in fifteen years and became one of Scotland's most successful television writers, creating and writing prime-time drama serials for both BBC and ITV in the UK.  In his homeland, he guided the top-rated Take the High Road as script editor and scriptwriter through its most successful era, when the show regularly topped the viewing charts in Scotland and achieved an audience of 6 million viewers across the UK.
In the 1990s, he co-created the ground-breaking Machair, the first ever major drama serial in the Gaelic language, which he also produced.  Machair was described by Kenneth Roy, the television critic of the broadsheet Scotland on Sunday as:
"quite simply the best thing to have happened to television in Scotland for a long time."
In spite of the fact that fewer than 2% of the Scottish population can speak Gaelic, the show - subtitled into English -  achieved a 30% audience share and made it into the Top Ten of programmes viewed in Scotland.

Award-Winning China Thrillers
With the approach of the new millennium, May quit television to return to his first love, novels, and embarked on a series of thrillers which took him half-way across the world.  Peter May made annual trips to China, spending months at a time there, building an extraordinary network of contacts.  He gained unprecedented access to the homicide and forensic science sections of Beijing and Shanghai police forces and made a painstaking study of the methodology of Chinese detectives and pathologists.  His outstanding China Thrillers series of books, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and Forensic patholigist from Chicago, Margaret Campbell are now published worldwide.  The books have been short-listed in France for Elle Magazine's Best Crime Novel in 2005 and the Prix Polar International in 2008.  In 2007 Snakehead won the Prix Intramuros.

Member of Chinese Crime Writers Association
As a mark of their respect for his work, Chinese Crime Writers in the Beijing Chapter, made Peter an Honorary Member of The Chinese Crime Writers' Association He is the only Westerner to receive such an honour.

Critical Acclaim for "cerebral" Enzo Files
His latest series of books, The Enzo Files, is set in France.  Hailed by author Steve Berry as "intelligent... and ingenious", several reviewers have praised the cerebral nature of the cold case investigations tackled by the Scottish forensic scientist Enzo Macleod.  Realism and humour also feature and the endearingly flawed hero has deen described as "a cross between James Bond and Inspector Clouseau"

Research and Factual Accuracy
May refuses to write about any setting that he hasn't visited personally and continues to take his research seriously for the series set in France.  Just as research for the China Thrillers meant trips to places such as the Shanghai police morgue and the American Ambassador's residence in Beijing, research for the Enzo Files has taken him from the Paris sewers to Michelin 3-star restaurants (he recently gained access to the kitchen of France's top chef, Michel Bras, to spend three days shadowing him in his work). 

Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Dive Bouteille
The second in the Enzo Files series, The Critic, tells a story set in the world of French wine production.  The research involved May picking grapes by hand, studying the process of wine-making from vine to marketing, and taking a formal wine tasting course.  As a reward for his efforts, he was inducted as a Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Dive Bouteille de Gaillac in December 2007 in recognition of his knowledge and support of the wines of Gaillac.

Professional Private Eye
In search of a new setting for his 2010 thriller, Virtually Dead, May entered the virtual world of Second Life in 2007, creating his own avatar, Flick Faulds, to explore the metaverse.  Faulds set up a detective agency to help May in his research, handling dozens of Second Life investigations for real (paying) clients.  The cases ranged from stalking and “griefing”, to fraud and infidelity, and enabled May to gather invaluable background and insights for his book.

Background to May's Latest Work: The Lewis Trilogy
The Blackhouse is the first of three books planned to be set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. 
May's link to Lewis and the Gaidhealtachd is a personal one.  For five years in the 1990s, May spent five months each year in the Outer Hebrides during the making of the 99 episodes of Machair. As producer and creator of the drama serial, he was in charge of a 70-strong cast and crew living and working on the island. 
The landscape and the life there had a profound effect on May and have provided the inspiration for his Lewis Trilogy, and his connections were renewed when he returned to research the new books.

The Blackhouse
"The Blackhouse is a crime novel of rare power and vision.
It is a murder mystery that explores the shadows in our souls,
set in a place where the past is ever near the surface,
and life blurs into myth and history."
  (cover copy)
The Blackhouse was first published in France as L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux and won Les Ancres Noires Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre in 2010.  It has been nominated for two other French book awards due to be announced in October 2010.
The Blackhouse will be published in the UK and around Europe in 2011.

Peter May is married to writer Janice Hally and lives in South West France.

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AWARDS

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FRENCH AWARDS
In 2007, May won the French Book Award, the PRIX INTRAMUROS for the French edition of his China Thriller Snakehead, at the 2007 Cognac "Polar&Co" Festival.  This unusual award is decided by juries of detainees in French Penitentiaries.

In 2010, May won the French Book Award, the PRIX DES LECTEURS at Le Havre's Les Ancres Noires book festival for L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux the French edition of The Blackhouse.  This award is decided by juries of readers in 23 libraries in the area around Le Havre who vote on a shortlist of 21 books during the year.  It was the first time in the history of the award that the winner was the unanimous choice of the voters.
The Blackhouse has also been nominated for two other writing awards in France.  The winners will be announced in October 2010.

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AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
FULL LIST


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LES ANCRES NOIRES
PRIX DES LECTEURS
LE HAVRE 2010
WINNER: THE BLACKHOUSE (L'Ile de Chasseurs d'Oiseaux)

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6e FESTIVAL DU POLAR
PRIX DES LECTEURS
VILLENEUVE LEZ AVIGNON 2010
Shortlisted: THE BLACKHOUSE (L'Ile de Chasseurs d'Oiseaux)

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PRIX POLAR INTERNATIONAL
COGNAC 2010
Salon Polar & co
Shortlisted: THE BLACKHOUSE (L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux)

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PRIX POLAR INTERNATIONAL
COGNAC 2008
Salon Polar & co
Shortlisted: CHINESE WHISPERS (L'Eventreur de Pékin)

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PRIX INTRAMUROS
COGNAC 2007
Salon Polar & co
WINNER: SNAKEHEAD (Cadavres Chinois a Houston)

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PRIX POLAR INTERNATIONAL
COGNAC 2007
Salon Polar & co
Shortlisted: SNAKEHEAD (Cadavres Chinois a Houston)

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ELLE MAGAZINE
GRAND PRIX 2006
Category: Best Crime Novel
Shortlisted: THE FIREMAKER (Meurtres à Pékin)

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17th International Celtic Film and Television Festival 1996
Category: Best Drama Serial
Shortlisted: MACHAIR

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The FRASER Award
1973

Scottish Young Journalist of the Year
WINNER


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Bibliography and Television Credits


TV Drama
Peter garnered more than 1,000 credits in 15 years as creator, writer, script editor, and producer of top-rated, prime-time drama for British Television
Machair (1991 - 1996) 99 episodes - co-creator and producer.
Take The HIgh Road (1980 - 1992) 200+ episodes - writer. 700+ episodes - storyliner and script editor.
The Ardlamont Mystery (1985) single teleplay - writer.
Squadron (1982) 10 episodes - co-creator and writer.
The Standard (1978) 13 episodes - co-creator and writer.

Standalone Novels
The Reporter
(1978)
Fallen Hero (1979)
Hidden Faces (UK 1981, USA 1982)
The Noble Path (UK 1992, USA, 1993)
Virtually Dead (2010)

The China Thrillers
An award-winning series of six books with Beijing detective, Li Yan and forensic scientist from Chicago Margaret Campbell.
The Firemaker (UK 1999, USA 2005)
The Fourth Sacrifice (UK 2000, USA 2007)
The Killing Room (UK 2001, USA 2008)
Snakehead (UK 2002, USA 2009)
The Runner (UK 2003, USA 2010)
Chinese Whispers (UK 2004, USA 2009)

The Enzo Files
A critically-acclaimed series of books involving biology professor and ex-forensic scientist, Enzo MacLeod as he re-opens a set of seven unsolved cold cases in France.
Dry Bones first published as Extraordinary People (2006)
A Vintage Corpse first published as The Critic (2007)
Blacklight Blue (2008)
Freeze Frame (2010)

The Lewis Trilogy:
A trilogy of books set on the Isle of Lewis, part of the Outer Hebrides archipelago off the extreme North West coast of Scotland.
The Blackhouse (France 2009. UK and Europe 2011)

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More about Peter May and his China Thrillers...

Peter May says if he ever writes an autobiography it would be sub-titled,

"How a guy in a skirt got the Chinese police to open doors for him"
 


After producing 1,000 episodes of top-rated primetime drama in his homeland, Peter May had earned his place as one of Scotland's most prolific, popular and successful television writers.  As creator, script writer and finally as a producer, his work had won nominations and critical acclaim.  But working in television meant that for 15 years he was tied to the UK and all other ambitions were on hold.  Finally, a sense of carpe diem, a desire to return to his first love - writing books, and the pull of a country half-way around the world would change his life.

How did this Scotsman find himself in China?

From his attic study in the remote Scottish Highlands, Peter May looked out over the sea loch to the mountains beyond and an idea took shape.  It involved a cop, not a Scottish cop, but a Chinese cop in the capital city of Beijing.  It also involved a pathologist, a female, American, forensic pathologist.  As the mist dropped down to obscure the mountains, May realised he knew nothing about the Chinese police force and nothing about forensic pathology.  But he turned to his computer and made those first initial searches on the Internet, knowing that the information was out there.  Soon, he would be on his way to China, a country that had fascinated him for years, on the first of many trips.  Over the following years he would spend many months there, travelling annually to watch that vast nation undergo a period of radical change.

Honorary Member of the Chinese Crime Writers' Association

In his determination to make sure that the descriptions of places and people in his books are accurate, May has made friends in all walks of life, from all over China: from officials in the Ministry of Public Security, to restaurant owners, from law professors to engineers, from students to retired cops, all of whom have helped him to understand the way of life in China today.  As an acknowledgement of his achievements, his fellow Crime Writers in China made him an honorary member of the Beijing chapter of their Crime Writers' association - May is the first Westerner to receive such a tribute

"beautifully written and very evocative"
Tangled Web
 

What does research involve for Peter May?

All in a day's work:

- examining a recently autopsied corpse at the Shanghai city morgue then going straight to a banquet lunch with the chief pathologist

- being taken on a hair-raising ride in the pitch dark through the backstreets of Beijing to find the hidden headquarters of the homicide squad

- making 23-hour-long journeys across China on trains where no-one can speak English.

"super-sleuthing in modern-day China...
[May] has extensively researched his novels and gets
right under the skin of his subject every time."
Good Book Guide

 
He has had access to places that few outsiders get the chance to visit

He has seen:
- 4,000 year old Chinese artefacts at Beijing University private museum of archaeology.
- behind the scenes at the terracotta warriors' museum in Xian
- the Beijing Institute of Forensic Science (part of the Ministry of Public Security)
- the Shanghai police operations center, where banks of television screens and hi-tech equipment monitor traffic and people across the city.

Research for the China Thrillers has also taken him to some unusual locations in the USA
- the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology museum in Washington DC, where he saw the bullet which killed Abraham Lincoln
- death row and the death house in Huntsville prison, Texas.
- the isolation ward in the U.S. bio-warfare unit at Fort Dettrick, Maryland - where they deal with the most deadly diseases known to man (he couldn't stop washing his hands after leaving that place).

How does he remember all the details?

He uses the latest digital video equipment to make a record of his research
With a background as a writer and producer of prime time television drama in Britain, May is at ease using video to help him in his research.  The latest editing software allows him to cut and play back details of his trips on his computer screen while he is working, allowing him to concentrate on choosing the right words for his writing.

"an intense and fascinating journey
through the city streets and vagaries of the Chinese Police system"
The Good Book Guide


But everything comes at a price, as he found out one dark winter's evening...

Guanxi (gwan-shee) is the name for the system in China, where if someone does you a favour, you owe them a favour in return.

After several trips to China where he was given total access to the Beijing and Shanghai police forces, the time came when a car with blacked out windows turned up one evening to take him to a meeting where he was asked to repay his debt...

What happened next?  It's no secret that he's still here to tell the tale, so let him tell you in person...


Writer, Gourmet and Chef

Peter May loves Chinese food - or "food" as they call it in China.  He does all the cooking at home and has collected many recipes on his travels. 

If you have a wok, some ingredients and a camping stove to hand, he'll happily give you a demonstration of how to make some tasty Chinese treats.  He even has his favourite recipes on his website, and his vivid descriptions of extraordinary Chinese meals always attract the attention of fans and reviewers.


Speaking of food - he's an expert on dining etiquette in China...

Peter May can answer FAQs, such as:

- How many deep-fried scorpions do you have to eat so you don't insult your host?

- What's the best way to eat a Shanghai hairy crab?

- What do you do when a group of Shanghai cops challenges you to a drinking contest?

- How do you cover it when the live shrimps on your plate splash soy sauce over your shirt?

- What do you do when you realise that those poppy seeds on your shrimps have legs and - in fact - they're ants?


and finally...

Chilling coincidences
...or can Peter May see into the future? 

A scary catalogue of events from Peter May's stories have later come true in life - it makes him concerned about what he chooses to put on paper next.
Does he have a window on the future?
Does his writing somehow affect the route the future takes?
Or is it all simply a series of bizarre coincidences?
Whatever the explanation... there is a woman in France, who would be dead today if Peter May had not written "The Firemaker"


If you would like to interview Peter May for print, radio or television...
Or if you'd like to arrange for him to give a talk at your bookstore or group...

for more information or to contact Peter May:

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