Peter May - Bio

Author, screenwriter and creator of television drama.  Peter May was born in Glasgow, but now lives in France, where his books have won several awards and he has a large following of fans.  He was recently introduced at the Lyon Festival of Crime writing as "The most French of all Scotsmen".

In Brief...

Peter May 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)
He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.

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 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 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 Writing.

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 Writing.

The hardback entered the UK charts at #4 and went on to spend almost six months in the UK hardback bestsellers list.


Entry Island

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
and
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.

Standalones

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.