Best-selling Scots author Peter May can’t wait to have the Covid vaccine so he can get back to the islands where his most famous books are set.
The France-based writer says he is “gobsmacked” his popular novel The Black House is storming up the literary charts ten years after it was first published and feels “homesick” for the Hebrides.
Many aspects of the current pandemic may seem like the plot of a novel and provide a rich seam of ideas for a writer but Peter explored the theme, 15 years ago.
Back then, his crime novel Lockdown, set against the backdrop of a bird flu outbreak, wasn’t published because “British editors at the time thought my portrayal of London under siege by the invisible enemy of H5N1 was unrealistic and could never happen”, writes May in a foreword to the book, which finally hit the bookshelves in April last year.
In Lockdown, his explanations for the spread of the disease came down in part to today’s modern ways of life.
He said: “We’ve created the perfect incubators for breeding and passing on infection, in the buses and planes and underground trains we travel on.
“We were a human disaster waiting to happen.”
Peter donated money from the book to covid-related causes.
The author said: “Like everyone else, I have spent the last nine months cooped up at home trying to avoid the virus, but the unexpected publication of Lockdown – 15 years after it had been written, and rejected by London publishing – was an unexpected bonus.
“Its worldwide success took me completely by surprise, but it has enabled me to help out those amazing people working on the front line of the fight against Covid by donating my entire advance for the book to deserving charities.
“Like the rest of the world, I’m waiting for a vaccine that I hope might give me my life back again.”
Now he is enjoying a new renaissance with the book that first brought him popular acclaim.
Suspense thriller The Blackhouse is the first novel of The Lewis Trilogy, with the action taking place mostly on the Isle of Lewis.
The books are a world-wide hit and sparked an interest in the islands from a legion of new fans across the globe.
He told STV News the possibility of re-issuing The Blackhouse was discussed with his publisher over a year ago.
“It wasn’t until my editor contacted me to say the book had gone into the chart at number 18 that I even remembered it was being published again,” he said.
“I’m gobsmacked at how popular it still is, ten years on, and by the thousands of messages from readers expressing their fondness for it.”
“I’m missing Scotland. My books are usually published in January, when I would come back to the UK and do a promotional tour in Scotland.
“Last year I had to cancel a trip to the Outer Hebrides with a film crew from ARTE, and I’m really feeling homesick for the islands.
“There was a point during some of the darkest moments of the pandemic that I wondered if I would ever get back.”
Writing online about the re-issue, he says “there’s life in the old dog yet” and he’s not been resting on his laurels through the pandemic.
“I have just finished writing my new book, The Night Gate, which will be out in March. It is a story set over two timelines – the present day, and wartime France in the 1940s.
It features my recurring detective, Enzo Macleod. It wasn’t the book I had intended to write this year. I had fully researched and storylined another idea, with a research trip to Svalbard, in the Arctic Circle, planned for last May but Covid-19 scuppered that, and I had to find a new idea quickly.
“For inspiration I returned to a blog post I had made the previous year.”
Although he sets his books all over the world, Peter says a big part of his heart is still in Scotland, and the Hebrides.
“I’m currently at home in south-west France, in the Département du Lot, where we’ve had snow and temperatures of minus six. I think the French weather is trying to cure my homesickness.”