Saturday, September 22, 2007


They say there's no rest for the wicked. In which case, I must be awfully bad.

I just finished writing Book Three in the EnzoFiles series. I started storylining it on July 9th, after three months of research and development which took me to the French Mediterranean, the North of Spain, a small town in the hills of Provence, Strasbourg, and Cahors!

I should mention that somewhere in the middle of all the writing I had to go to Lorient in Brittany for a promotional event at the Festival Interceltique, which this year featured Scotland. So I was guest of honour at the Bistro Litteraire, where I was interrogated for an hour in front of an audience by two delightful "animateurs" as they call them here in France - Maette Chantrel and Rachid Oujdi.

I was there for four days, with lots of time off. So I used one of those days to make a research trip for a forthcoming EnzoFiles book which will be set entirely on a Breton island. I spent the whole Sunday on the Isle de Groix, which is the second biggest of the Breton islands. Apart from the trees, it made me think of the Scottish Hebrides. A rugged coastline, crap roads, and little whitewashed cottages with steeply pitched slate roofs.

La Patronne et moi hired an open-topped jeep and travelled the island from top to bottom, loosening teeth and spinal joints in the process. GREAT location! We had a fabulous seafood lunch on the terrasse of a harbour restaurant, before finding a beach shaped like a concave crescent and falling asleep in the sun. Bi-ig mistake! Blue-white Scottish people transformed into cooked red lobsters.

I should also mention that while in Lorient, I became a legend in my own back garden. Sound strange? It really was. A local arts organisation here in France, Artzimut, wanted to take a tour of people around my village to meet the local artists - a painter called Christian, a couple of musicians called Chris and Fleur, and myself, the writer. When they discovered I was going to be in Brittany when they did the tour, they rigged up a computer communication deal, via iChat. They set up a big screen and a sound system in my back garden, all connected to an online computer. I went online at my hotel in Brittany, and came up on the big screen. I could see and hear them. They could see and hear me. The idea was that they would ask me questions about my books and I would respond.

Well, the organiser spoke to me about ten minutes beforehand to tell me I would have to do the Q & A twice. Why? I asked. He said they'd had to split the people into two groups, because there were too many for a single session. How many? I asked. Three hundred, he told me. THREE HUNDRED! I couldn't believe it. Three hundred people were going to trek up from the woods behind my house and through my back garden. When finally I connected with them, I asked if they wouldn't mind cutting the grass while they were there. Unfortunately there were no volunteers. I saw my neighbour, Georges, on screen, and when I spoke to him, he jumped. Georges is nearly 80, and couldn't understand how the TV screen could be talking to him. Altogether a pretty bizarre experience.

Anyway, once back from Lorient, it was back to work. The daily grind. Up at 6am, 3000 words a day. Until the last of them tripped off my fingertips and on to the computer screen at the beginning of this week.

BLOOD. That's the working title. A good title, I think. Apposite. Because the story really is about blood, in every sense.

So next week I start the revisions, which will take me into October, and the promotional month from hell. I have four major promotional events in France in October. The second EnzoFiles book comes out in the States in November, published by Poisoned Pen Press, along with the paperback of EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. The new one's called THE CRITIC, and La Patronne has already started planning the US promotional tour for it in February/March 2008. Of course we'll also be promoting THE KILLING ROOM which is published by St. Martin's Press in February.

But since THE CRITIC is about the murder of a wine critic in the vineyards of south-west France, the emphasis of the tour is going to be on wine. A sort of Book Tasting tour. We've been in negotiation with several American wine importers about bringing some Gaillac wines into the States to allow readers at my events to taste the wines I write about in the book. But, of course, nothing is simple, so I'm hoping that's all going to work out.

The first event has already been plumbed in at Houston, Texas, for late February. An event hosted by the Alliance Francaise, books provided by Murder by the Book, and wine provided by Specs. A bi-ig crowd is expected. There should be ten or twelve similar events around the States, as well as smaller signing events at the usual bookstores. And, of course, it's straight back from there to four days at the Paris book fair.

And then another book to write!

See what I mean about wicked?

The most bizarre moment of the next few months awaits me at Cognac in October. There is a huge festival of crime books held there every year, called Polar & Co. There are various prizes given out at the festival, and this year I have been nominated for one of them. It is called the Prix Intramuros - literally, the prize between the walls. There are seven nominees. We have to turn up at the festival a day early to meet each other during a dinner in a chateau. The following day we will be driven to the local prison in Poitou Charentes, where we will each spend the day being interrogated by panels of prisoners. At the end of the day, it is the prisoners who will decide the winner of the prize, and the award will be made that night.

I have to confess to being a little nervous about wearing my kilt in prison!

However, spending a day in jail was just about the furthest thing from my mind last week when I drove into my local town to go the bank. I'd forgotten it was market day, and the town was taken over by stalls and marketeers. I had to park on the edge of town and walk in. As I was crossing the main street near the bank, a blue gendarmes' van pulled up in the middle of the road. All the traffic behind it ground to a halt. The gendarme in the passenger seat rolled down his window, pointed at me, and then crooked his finger to indicate that I should approach.

I went to the van with great trepidation, wondering what the hell I had done. He looked at me and said, "Monsieur Peter May?" I just about fell over. How did he know my name? 'Yes,' I confessed reluctantly.

His face broke into a wreath of smiles. "I lo-ove your books,' he said. "I'm really pleased to meet you." And he pumped my hand and told me he'd read all four which had been translated so far into French. He wanted to know when the next one would be out, and would I sign it for him.

I couldn't believe it. He just wanted to talk. Meanwhile the traffic was tailing back all the way through the town. But nobody was going to honk a horn at the cops. Finally he shook my hand again and off they went. I walked on to the bank in a daze, ignoring the motorists glowering at me from their cars.

Was this, I wondered, fame at last?

Well, fame in my own lunch hour, anyway!