Peter May - Bio
is the multi award-winning author of:
the internationally best-selling Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
the 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;
and several standalone books, including the multi award-winning Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK) and his latest Runaway (Quercus 2015)
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 lives in France.
After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy - The Blackhouse - was published in France as L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux where it was hailed as "a masterpiece" by the French national newspaper L'Humanité. His novels have a large following in France. The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world's largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.
The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers). It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.
The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013.
Full Biographical Details
From the beginning May's 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 series of six 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
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 set 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 was first published in France as L'Ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux after it was initially turned down by all the major British publishers. Hailed as "a masterpiece" by the French daily newspaper L'Humanité, it went on to be published all over Europe and was finally bought by British publishers Quercus who published it in February 2011 (Quercus is a young award-winning publishing house that wasn't around when The Blackhouse was first presented to British publishers). The Blackhouse has been published all over the world.
Success of the Lewis Trilogy
The Blackhouse was chosen by Richard & Judy for
their Book Club's autumn 2011 list and became a
best-seller in UK hardback, paperback and e-book
versions. It won Les Ancres Noires Prix des
Lecteurs at Le Havre in 2010, and in October 2010,
it won one of the world's biggest adjudicated readers'
prizes, the Prix Cezam.
The Blackhouse was shortlisted for the Barry Award and the Macavity Award when it was published in the USA. It won the Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013.
May followed the success of The Blackhouse with the
second book in his Lewis Trilogy, The Lewis Man. The
book was praised on both sides of the channel. In
2012, May won the French daily newspaper, Le
Télégramme's Grand Prix de Lecteurs, which came
with a 10,000 Euro prize, and made history by being the
only author in the history of Le Havre's Les Ancres
Noires, to win their Prix des Lecteurs
twice. The Lewis Man also won the Prix Polar
International at the Cognac festival of Crime
It was shortlisted in the UK for the Crime Writing Association's, Dagger in the Library Award, Bloody Scotland's Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2012, and the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2013.
The final book in the trilogy The Chessmen was
published in France in October 2012 and UK in January
2013. It won the won the Prix Polar
International at the Cognac festival of Crime
The hardback entered the UK charts at #4 and went on to spend almost six months in the UK hardback bestsellers list.
Entry Island is a standalone novel set between the Isle
of Lewis in Scotland and Quebec in Canada.
Entry Island has won two major UK awards:
The Deanston Scottish Crime Novel of the Year 2014
The ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Club Best Read of the Year 2014
as well as the French
TROPHEE 813 for Best Foreign Crime Novel of the Year for 2015.
Peter has written several standalone books including Entry
Island, Runaway and Coffin Road.
Peter May is married to writer Janice Hally and has lived permanently in South West France since 2002 after having a house there since 1987.