Peter May (writer)

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Peter May
Peter May wins French Cezam Prize.jpg
Peter May
Born (1951-12-20) 20 December 1951 (age 62)
Glasgow, Scotland
Occupation Crime writer, screenwriter, novelist
Nationality Scottish
Period 1971 – present
Genre Television drama, Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction
Subject China, France
Notable works The China Thrillers, The Enzo Files
Notable awards

Fraser Award
1973 Scottish Young Journalist of the Year
Prix Intramuros
2007 Snakehead

Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE
2011 The Blackhouse
Spouse Janice Hally

Peter May (born 20 December 1951) is a Scottish television screenwriter, best-selling[1] novelist and crime writer.[2]

Early life[edit]

Peter May was born in Glasgow. From an early age he was intent on becoming a novelist, but took up a career as a journalist as a way to start earning a living by writing. At the age of 21, he won the Fraser Award and was named Scotland's Young Journalist of the Year. He went on to write for The Scotsman and the Glasgow Evening Times.[3] At the age of 26, May's first novel, The Reporter, was published. May was asked to adapt the book as a television series for the British television network the BBC, and left journalism in 1978 to begin to write full-time for television.[3]

Television career[edit]

May's novel, The Reporter became the prime-time 13-part television series entitled The Standard in 1978. May went on to create another major TV series for the BBCSquadron – a drama involving a RAF rapid deployment squadron.[4] In the following fifteen years, May earned more than 1,000 TV credits. He created and wrote major drama serials for both BBC and the Independent Television Network in the UK[5] including Machair[6] which he co-created with Janice Hally for Scottish Television. The long-running serial was the first major television drama to be made in the Gaelic language and was shot entirely on the Isle of Lewis location in the Outer Hebrides.[6] The show, which May also produced, achieved a 33% audience share and made it regularly into the top ten in the ratings in Scotland, in spite of the fact that it had to be broadcast with English subtitles as only 2% of the population of are Gaelic speakers.[5] During his time working in television, May wrote the novels Hidden Faces (1981) and The Noble Path (1992),[4] and in 1996 May quit television to devote his time to writing novels.[5]

Chinese connections[edit]

Returning to novels, his "China Thrillers" series of books have been published around the world. To research the series, Peter May made annual trips to China and built up a network of contacts including forensic pathologists and homicide detectives. He gained access to the homicide and forensic science sections of Beijing and Shanghai police forces and has made a study of the methodology of Chinese police and forensic pathology systems.[5]

As a mark of their respect for his work, The Chinese Crime Writers' Association made him an honorary member of their Beijing Chapter. He is the only Westerner to receive such an honour.[3] He has also contributed a monthly column to the Chinese Police Magazine Contemporary World Police.[3]

French connections[edit]

Peter May lives in France, and his China Thrillers have received several nominations for awards in that country. In 2007 he won the Prix Intramuros.[7] This prize is unique in France as it is awarded by juries of readers made up of prisoners in French penitentiaries. The books under consideration are reduced to a shortlist of 6 finalists and the authors of the shortlisted books then have to travel to various French prisons to be interviewed by panels of detainees.[7] In 2007, May was the only non-French author in the shortlist. He received the prize at the annual Polar&Co literary festival in Cognac.[1]

"The Enzo Files", is set in France and is centred on the work of half-Italian, half-Scottish Enzo Macleod. This former forensic scientist, now working as a biology professor at a French university becomes involved in applying the latest scientific methods to solve cold cases.[8]

May continues to ensure authenticity in the details of his books by researching in France just as he did in China. When writing "The Critic" – which involves the wine industry and is set in Gaillac, France – May took a course in wine-tasting, picked grapes by hand, and was invited by the winemakers of the region to be inducted as a Chevalier de la Dive Bouteille de Gaillac in December 2007.[9][10]

Second life[edit]

While working on his standalone thriller 'Virtually Dead', May researched the book by creating an avatar in the online world of Second Life and opening the Flick Faulds private detective agency. He spent a year in Second Life, working as a private detective, and was hired by clients for cases ranging from protection from harassment by stalkers to surveillance and infidelity investigations. He claims to have had a 100% success rate.[11]

The Lewis Trilogy[edit]

After being turned down by all the major British publishers, The Blackhouse – the first book in 'The Lewis Trilogy' – was published first in May's adopted home of France in French translation at the end of 2009. The book was hailed as "a masterpiece" by the French daily newspaper L'Humanité[12][13] and was immediately nominated for several literary awards in France. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival in 2010[14] and won the French national literature award, the Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE[15] at an award ceremony in Strasbourg in October 2011.[16] The Blackhouse went on to be published all over Europe and was bought by British publishers Quercus who brought it out in February 2011. It is the first of three books to be set in the Scottish archipelago the Outer Hebrides.[17]

'The Blackhouse' was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club autumn 2011 list.[18]

The second book in the trilogy, 'The Lewis Man' was published in January 2012, and spent 18 weeks in the UK hardbacks best sellers' list. It has won two French literature awards, the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre's Ancres Noires Festival, 2012 and the Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme, readers prize of France's Le Télégramme newspaper – the 10,000 euro award was presented to May at a ceremony in Brest in May 2012.[19]

'The Lewis Man' won the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival.[20]

The third book in the trilogy, 'The Chessmen' was published in January 2013.

The Lewis Trilogy has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone.[1]

Books, television and film writing credits[edit]

The Lewis Trilogy[edit]

The Enzo Files[edit]

The China Thrillers[edit]

Standalone novels[edit]

Photo books[edit]

  • Hebrides (Quercus 2013) Photo companion to The Lewis Trilogy, with photographs by David Wilson.

Television drama[edit]


  • The Killing Room (Les Disparues) movie to be produced by French production company, French Connection in partnership with Korean Dream Capture Studios[21] Action to be transferred from Shanghai, China to Seoul, South Korea.


Author Peter May with the 2013 Barry Award for Best Novel, for his book, "The Blackhouse".
  • Fraser Award (1973) winner of Scottish Young Journalist of the Year Award[4]
  • 17th International Celtic Film and Television Festival (1996) Machair nominated for Best Drama Serial Award[4]
  • Elle Magazine, Grand Prix de Littérature (2006) The Firemaker runner up in category Best Crime Novel[4]
  • 2007 Prix Intramuros (France)[22] Snakehead winner at the Salon Polar & Co, Cognac[7]
  • 2007 Prix International (France) Snakehead shortlisted at the Salon Polar & Co, Cognac[4]
  • 2008 Prix International (France) Chinese Whispers shortlisted at the Salon Polar & Co, Cognac[4]
  • 2010 Prix Ancres Noires[23] L'Île des chasseurs d'oiseaux (The Blackhouse) winner of the Prix des Lecteurs at the Les Ancres Noires book festival, Le Havre
  • 2011 Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE[15] L'Île des chasseurs d'oiseaux (The Blackhouse) winner of the CEZAM Prix Litteraire Inter CE national French Literature Prize.[16]
  • 2012 Prix Ancres Noires[24] (2012) L'Homme de Lewis (The Lewis Man) winner of the Prix des Lecteurs at the Les Ancres Noires book festival, Le Havre
  • 2012 Grand Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme[25] (2012) L'Homme de Lewis (The Lewis Man) winner of the Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme, 10,000 Euro Readers' Prize of French daily newspaper.[26]
  • 2012 Prix International, Cognac Festival[20]L'Homme de Lewis won the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival.
  • 2013 Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel (USA)[27] The Blackhouse shortlisted
  • 2013 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award (UK)[28] The Lewis Man shortlisted
  • 2013 Barry Award for Best Crime Novel (USA)[29] The Blackhouse won the Barry Award for Best Novel of the Year at a ceremony at Bouchercon, Albany NY.[30]


  1. ^ a b "Scottish Television Article about Peter May". STV. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Scotland Now feature on Scottish Crime Writers". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Shots Magazine Interview with Peter May". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Biographical details from official Peter May website". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Crime Time profile of author Peter May". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  6. ^ a b "Gaelic drama serial "Machair"". Retrieved 28 May 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c "Official Press Release about Prix Intramuros". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  8. ^ "San Diego Reader Feature about Peter May's Extraordinary People". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "San Diego reader Article about Peter May's 'The Critic'". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  10. ^ "Peter May describes becoming a Chevalier de la Dive Bouteille de Gaillac". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  11. ^ "International Thriller Writers Magazine article about Peter May's 'Virtually Dead'". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  12. ^ May, Peter. "Translation of review of The Blackhouse in l'humanite". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  13. ^ L'Humanite. "French Daily Newspaper l'Humanite review of The Blackhouse". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  14. ^ "French Literary Prizes – Prix Ancres Noires des Lecteurs". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  15. ^ a b CEZAM. "CEZAM Prix Litteraire". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Scottish author Peter May Wins French Literary Award". Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Lewis Trilogy". Official author website. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  18. ^ "Richard and Judy Book Club official site". 
  19. ^ "Peter May official site". 
  20. ^ a b "Charente Libre". 
  21. ^ "Article in Screen Daily". Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  22. ^ "French Literary Prizes – Prix Intramuros". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  23. ^ "French Literary Prizes – Prix Ancres Noires des Lecteurs". Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  24. ^ "French Literary Prizes – Prix Ancres Noires des Lecteurs". Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  25. ^ "French Literary Prizes – Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme". Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  26. ^ "Peter May Website news of Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme". Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  27. ^ "Macavity Award". Mystery Readers Journal. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year". Theakstons. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  29. ^ "Barry Award". Deadly Pleasures Magazine. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  30. ^ "2013 Barry Award Winners". Crimespree Magazine. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

External links[edit]