LOCKDOWN – fighting crime in a world in quarantine

LOCKDOWN by Peter May

LOCKDOWN by Peter May

After a successful career creating and writing top-rated drama for British television, and with 8 novels published in the UK and USA, I hit a period around fifteen years ago when I could not find a publisher for anything I wrote. Books that were universally turned down included “The Blackhouse” (which has since gone on to win awards internationally and sell millions of copies worldwide) and “Extraordinary People” (which was the first book in what later became the hugely successful Enzo Macleod series).
Another book I wrote around this time was set in a London which was at the epicentre of a global pandemic. It was a city in total lockdown. A virus was claiming thousands of lives. Hospital and emergency services were in meltdown. The prime minister was dead and soldiers were on the streets to enforce a curfew.
The literary establishment was highly sceptical. It was OTT, unrealistic. A lockdown in London could never happen in modern-day Britain.
No one would publish it.
So I despatched the manuscript to a metaphorical drawer – a file in my Dropbox which has spent the last fifteen years gathering dust in the ether.
Fast forward to the year 2020, and London is a city in lockdown. Emergency services are buckling under the strain of skyrocketing infections. The death toll is mounting. The Prime Minister has caught the virus. And it’s only going to get worse, the scientists are telling us.


Strangely, many of the things I have written about during a long career in TV and books have subsequently come to pass. In my early years, while storylining the Scottish soap opera “Take The High Road”, there was a sequence of spooky occurrences. I wrote about a character falling and breaking his arm. Three weeks later that actor fell from a ladder and broke his arm. In another story I wrote about a character becoming pregnant. The actress became pregnant. There was a lot of nervous laughter about it among the cast. Actors hoped I wasn’t going to kill off their character – and not just because of loss of earnings. I had an actor come to my door once and ask if I could write a story in which his character won the lottery.
When it came to books, I seemed to be almost prescient. In the first of my China Thrillers, “The Firemaker”, I wrote about the introduction of a genetically modified strain of rice which goes wrong. Within a couple of years of publication the genetically modified “Golden Rice” appeared on the scene to be met with huge opposition from environmental and anti-globalisation activists. It has taken nearly twenty years for its successor to get tentative approval for commercial cultivation.
My 1981 book, “The Man With No Face”, was set against Britain’s uncertainty about its future place in Europe. Ten years later my book, “The Noble Path”, followed refugees fleeing from war, taking to flimsy boats to cross treacherous bodies of water. Sound familiar?
In “Snakehead”, another of the China Thrillers, I wrote about a truckload of dead Chinese found abandoned in Texas. They were illegal immigrants who had suffocated in the back of the trailer. That might sound familiar, too.
Also in “Snakehead” I wrote about bio-terrorists re-kindling the Spanish Flu virus of 1918 to weaponise it against America, and the research for that book provided useful background when it came to writing “Lockdown”, in which the virus that causes the havoc is a variation of avian, or bird, flu.


At the time scientists were predicting that bird flu would be the next major pandemic. And had it come to pass, the consequences would have been catastrophic. The H5N1 virus is, perhaps, less infectious than the current Coronavirus, but is many times more dangerous – with a mortality rate of anything between 60 and 80 percent. But the scenario that I describe in the book is not drawn from my imagination. It was based upon detailed pandemic planning done by both the British and the Americans in the early 2000s. These planning documents painted the horrific picture that I used to colour in the detail of “Lockdown”.
And we are now seeing that same planning swinging into action to deal with Covid-19. Unthinkable both then and now. But it’s happening.


In truth, I had literally forgotten about my unpublished book. It wasn’t until someone on Twitter suggested that I write a thriller set against the backdrop of a Coronavirus lockdown that I suddenly realised that I had already done just that. Someone else made the same suggestion. Then when a reader on my Facebook author page begged me to write something new to read during the tedious hours of quarantine, I suggested that I might publish an old manuscript from 15 years ago that was set during a global pandemic in a locked down London. The suggestion was greeted with a chorus of approval.
I mentioned it to my editor at Quercus, and he couldn’t believe that I had such a manuscript buried away beneath the layers of discarded pixels in my old files. He asked to see it, and in fact read the document I sent him overnight. I woke up the following morning to an email which declared it to be “a brilliant novel.” Suddenly what I had written about in 2005 was no longer “OTT” or “unrealistic”. It was actually happening.
The rest is history.


They say that every dog has its day. Maybe books do, too. When I originally wrote “Lockdown”, no matter how well researched or accurate the dystopian picture it painted, no one could identify with it. Now everyone can. It is our common experience. And isn’t that what writers are supposed to do – describe and explore the human condition, the world we experience as a human race?
I don’t claim the prescience that my writing history might suggest. But I think my interest in subjects medical and scientific, and the detailed researches I have done for my books, sometimes puts me a little ahead of the curve. And as I sit here in France, confined to my own home – like so many others around the world – I can only hope that there is a better outcome for us all than “Lockdown” might predict.

Twitter card - launch


London, the epicentre of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus. The Prime Minister himself is dead. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed.


At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate.


As a bizarre mosaic of evidence appears to link the murdered child to the pandemic itself, the virus claims the life of his son. Jack has been directly exposed. But sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which one will stop him first – the virus or the killers?

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Giving Back in Time of Need

I have taken the decision to donate the money from the advance that I have received for LOCKDOWN to various charitable organisations involved with supporting health workers, victims and others suffering as a result of Covid-19.

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A Silent Death: the making of


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A Silent Death will be published in January 2020, and before its publication, I thought I would share some of the research and development that went into the writing of the book.

The story is set in Spain, where a Scottish police officer has been seconded to the Spanish authorities to assist with the manhunt for a fugitive from British justice.

About eight years ago I bought an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean, a little to the west of the Spanish resort town of Estepona. Since then I have spent most of my winters there to escape the cold of my home in south-west France. In a little study looking out over a sparkling sunlit sea I have written my last six books. It is a part of Spain with which I have become very familiar and I have wanted to write about it for some time.

I should mention that I have had a love affair with Spain ever since meeting two sisters at a resort on the Costa Brava when I was a young teenager in the early sixties. They were from Barcelona – Cristina and Nurita – and I borrowed their names for the characters of the young Spanish policewoman and her sister. Those real-life sisters were the inspiration for the first book I ever wrote, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Needless to say, that first book was never published, but I have never forgotten Cris and Nuri, although I have never had any contact with them since. I have no idea if they are still alive, or will ever read this book.

Puerto de la Contessa

“Puerto de la Contessa”, the classic holidaymaker’s experience of coastal Spain


In A Silent Death I wanted to create a character who went against the grain of the classic hero. Not in the sense that he would be a drunk or a junkie or imbued with unpleasant characteristics or a questionable morality. But someone who was too damned clever for his own good.

John Mackenzie has an IQ that is simply off the scale, and as is so often the case with very clever people, absolutely no filter when it comes to social interactions. He says what he sees and thinks, because to him his view of the world is so self-evidently correct. He makes no allowance for the offence he might give, or the hurt he might cause. Not because he doesn’t care, but because he doesn’t understand the vulnerability of others to the brutal bluntness of his “truth”. His world is black and white, good and bad. There is no room for compromise.

For inspiration in the construction of this character I turned to my two brothers-in-law. Both are startlingly intelligent, and although they have never met have both been hugely successful in the world of computer system analysis – one in England, one in America.

One installed computer systems all over the world for a multi-national corporation, the other was employed as a freelance consultant by major organisations initialising untried computer systems in areas of financial or logistical sensitivity. Each had an unerring propensity for rubbing employers and co-workers up the wrong way. Both manage to offend friends and family with regular ease, never with intent, but always with surprise and regret when the effect of their words becomes belatedly apparent.

Since retirement, one has developed a hobby of studying languages and taking university degrees in a whole range of arcane subjects, like quantum physics, and astronomy. The other has found part-time employment in an industry which makes use of his astonishing ability to absorb and remember facts.

The latter has read the manuscript of “A Silent Death”. I often give him copies of my manuscripts to proof read because of his amazing memory and attention to detail. He picks up the tiniest of errors that the rest of us have missed. I think it would be fair to say that he recognised elements of himself in the character of Mackenzie, not least his obsessive insistence that all the shirts in his wardrobe must have a breast pocket capable of accommodating his mobile phone.

Marviña (02)

Main street of “Marviña”, where John Mackenzie is billeted in a local hotel


One of the other main characters in A Silent Death is deaf and blind.

I first developed a consciousness about the phenomenon of deaf-blindness after watching a TV ad appealing for money for a deaf-blind charity. I wondered what on earth it must feel like to be deaf AND blind. It was unthinkable. To lose both primary senses and become trapped within yourself, your own body becoming a prison confining you in a world of darkness and silence.

I began research on the subject and discovered that it was more prevalent than one might expect. There are nearly 400,000 sufferers around the world, with that figure expected to rise to 600,000 in the next fifteen years. One of the most common causes is a genetic disease known as Usher Syndrome in which the victim develops partial or total hearing loss that worsens over time.

I decided to explore this illness through the character of a middle-aged woman, Ana, delving into her experience through a first person narration. Although not the principal character, she is central to the story. We discover that she was afflicted in early childhood with hearing problems, then diagnosed with Usher Syndrome in her teens, when she developed “night blindness”, which is often a precursor to vision loss caused by a disease known as retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. We accompany her on her nightmare journey into complete hearing loss and total blindness, and through her limited senses learn first hand about the book’s main antagonist when he takes her hostage.

For inspiration, and an authentic take on what it might be like to be deaf and blind, I delved into a book called “Deaf-Blind Reality – Living the Life”, edited by Scott M Stoffel, himself a deaf-blind sufferer. It presented extensive interviews with 12 victims from around the world, describing their experiences from childhood to adulthood, and sometimes old age, and gave me an extraordinary insight into their world. A world of bullying and neglect, by peers, and teachers, and society in general. It made me angry, and even more determined to cast light on their suffering through Ana.

The only channel of communication for deaf-blind sufferers with the world around them has come with the development of technologies that provide braille screens that allow them to surf the internet and exchange messages with others. There is even a service that enables telephone conversations via an operator who can pass on vocal or braille messages and respond in kind. But with so comparatively few sufferers worldwide, investment in finding medical solutions is tiny, and the hope of a future cure equally so.


The book takes place in the south of Spain.

But not the Spain of sun, sea and sand that characterises the British holidaymaker’s image of the Costa del Sol. I wanted to get under the skin of this superficially beautiful part of the world, lifting stones to reveal the flip side of the seaside paradise depicted in travel agents’ brochures. To write about the “Costa del Crime”, that monicker so beloved of the tabloid headline writers. The reality that lurks just a few streets away from the seafront facades of bars and restaurants that look out on crowded beaches. A much darker world of drug-running and people trafficking. Of gangs and violence and the seeds of social unrest sown by a turbulent history of Moorish occupation and Catholic resistance.

Marviña (03)

Leaving the coast and heading into the mountains, the town of “Marviña” nestles in the hills.

Much of this other side of southern Spain was revealed to me during an interview with the chief of police in a hill town which is the administrative centre for a length of coastline that stretches east and west along the south coast, and north towards its mountainous interior. He happily introduced me to his handgun and holster, before taking me on a detailed tour of the police station. There were interview rooms and detectives’ offices, a gun room, and an evidence room where he laid out a huge array of lethal weapons seized during recent raids on local drugs gangs. Parts of the town, it seemed, were virtually no-go areas for the police. Derelict buildings – in fact, housing developments unfinished since the financial collapse of 2007/8 – had been taken over to become the headquarters of such gangs.

But these gangs are not just operating at street level. They are trafficking industrial quantities of drugs – heroin and cocaine. The police have trouble arresting gang members for more than minor possession. The big drugs hauls are sent out into the hills, to be stored in the barns and outhouses of peasant farmers who are coerced into cooperation. While I was researching the book, a whole family of innocent farmers was slaughtered by gang members when they went to retrieve drugs from the wrong farm by mistake.

Marviña (01)

“Marviña” with its view across the hillside vineyards to the sea

People trafficking, too, is a booming industry – less lucrative perhaps than drugs, but also less risky, with smaller sentences for those who are caught.

Increasingly boats are arriving along the south coast of Spain from North Africa – a relatively short crossing. There are many reports of sunbathing holidaymakers startled to see ragged lines of illegal immigrants piling off ramshackle boats that have washed up on the beaches. Clutching their meagre possessions, they quickly melt away into the hills beyond, where they are met by the people traffickers who guide them to temporary accommodation in any one of the hundreds of abandoned developments that pepper the coastline.

In the early two thousands, developers seemed to believe that there would be no end to the influx of wealthy Russians and Europeans flocking to the sun to buy apartments. But with the collapse of financial institutions worldwide towards the end of the decade, both money and buyers dried up, and hundreds of developments were simply abandoned. Some had only just been started, others were near completion. All are now crumbling in the searing heat of the sun, and nature is gradually reclaiming what had been taken from it. Cranes hired during the boom stand idly, like so many lost dinosaurs, looming over these scars on the landscape – the companies that owned them long since gone bust, just like the companies who hired them. Such places can be scary and dangerous.

The influence of a new generation of moneyed Russians is plain to see all around. Many of the billionaire yacht owners who dock their boats in the marina at the fashionable Puerto Banus are Russian. There are Russian clubs and restaurants, and more and more apartments are being snapped up by Russian tourists. Vladimir Putin himself is rumoured to own a large estate in the hills behind Marbella, flying in by helicopter from his yacht anchored out in the bay.


During my visit to the police station, I met a young policewoman who was wheeled in by the police chief to show me her uniform. She became the model for the other principal character in the book, Cristina – a young, married policewoman with a ten-year-old son, a crumbling marriage and a sister who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In a still male-dominated society where policewomen are employed only to meet the requirement for someone to search female suspects, juggling the responsibilities of a mother, wife and police officer is an almost impossible task. In my story Cristina is struggling to keep her head above this turbulence when she is attached, unwillingly, to John Mackenzie who has been sent by the National Crime Agency in the UK to track down and bring back a fugitive from British justice. A hard-working, honest and down-to-earth woman, she is unprepared for the social ineptitude of her new partner, or for a confrontation with death that will change her life.

A substantial element of Cristina’s character was based on my local research assistant, a divorced mother of a young son living in a small apartment in the administrative town which became my fictitious Marviña in the book. I used her chaotic apartment as the model for Cristina’s (she recognised it immediately when she read the manuscript), and I borrowed the name of her son, Lucas, for the character of the policewoman’s boy. She introduced me to the mysteries of the Spanish funeral, and the centuries old culture which still shapes the people there.


“Marviña” Cemetery


The final part of the book takes place in Gibraltar, that giant rock which casts its ubiquitous shadow all along the southern Spanish coast. It is always there, somehow, in the telling of the story, and seemed like the perfect setting for the denouement of the book.

I made two visits to The Rock. The first was to gain a general impression of this outpost of a long lost British Empire, where almost 96 percent voted to remain in Europe – only to be dragged out against their will. A febrile sense of uncertainty suffused the atmosphere of the place when I was there, with the prospect of the reintroduction of a hard border with Spain ruining the lives and careers of many thousands of people living in the territory. I was surprised to discover that while its residents steadfastly call themselves British, the ethnicity of the population is hugely diverse, with many deriving from a range of other European and African countries such as Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Morocco. Only 13 percent come from the UK, with little more than twice that number possessing British surnames. And yet as you step across the border from Spain, almost the first thing you see is an old-fashioned red British telephone box.



My second visit took me high up on the rock to research the detailed specifics of the story’s end. But I won’t go into details here, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you!

Gibraltar, The Rock

View from the summit of The Rock

A Silent Death – available from Amazon.co.uk

A Silent Death

click here to buy from Amazon.co.uk

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A Silent Death – UK Tour

A Silent Death - Banner

Click here to pre-order A Silent Death from Amazon.co.uk

My latest book, A Silent Death, a brand new thriller set in the South of Spain near Gibraltar will be coming out in January in the UK and March in the USA and I will be touring both sides of the Atlantic to celebrate the launch.  Below are the dates of the UK tour.  (Details of my April trip to the USA and Canada will be coming soon.)


Monday 13th January – Glasgow Aye Write Special Event with Waterstones – Mitchell Theatre 6.30pm Tickets £9 – click here for booking details

Tuesday 14th January – Perth Theatre – the Joan Knight Studio – Perth Library – 7.30pm  Tickets £7 – click here for booking details

Wednesday 15th January – Inverness – Eden Court Theatre in association with Waterstones 6.30pm Tickets £5 – click here for booking details

Thursday 16th January – Edinburgh – The Edinburgh Central Library, George IV Bridge, in association with Blackwells  6.30pm (tickets free, but must be reserved) – click here for booking details

Friday 17th January – Edinburgh – Toppings, Greenside Church, 1b Royal Terrace, Edinburgh 7.40pm (ticket prices vary, but redeemable against a copy of book) – click here for booking details

Tuesday 21st January – London – Hatchards, Piccadilly 6.30pm Tickets £10 – click here for booking details

Click here to pre-order A Silent Death from Amazon.co.uk

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The Man With No Face

Happy New Year! And I’m happy to announce the publication of The Man With No Face.  This book was originally written and published in 1981, it’s a fast-moving political thriller is set in 1979 but is contemporary in its themes, which is why my editor suggested it was time for a new edition.

Set on the eve of a UK general election, the topic on everyone’s lips is Britain’s membership of the European Union.  Political conspiracies, freedom of the press, corruption and assassinations, all set in the pre-internet era, when nobody had mobile phones and information was slower to travel and easier to conceal.

The Man With No Face



Brussels, 1979. Jaded Edinburgh journalist Neil Bannerman arrives in the capital of European politics intent on digging up dirt. Yet it is danger he discovers, when two British men are found murdered.


One victim is a journalist, the other a Cabinet Minister: the double-assassination witnessed by the former’s autistic daughter. This girl recalls every detail about her father’s killer – except for one.


With Brussels rocked by the tragedy, Bannerman is compelled to follow his instincts. He is now fighting to expose a murderous conspiracy, protect a helpless child, and unmask a remorseless killer.

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Meet me on the launch tour for “The Man With No Face”

Monday 14th January – Glasgow

6.30pm – Book Talk
Venue: Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow G3 7DN
Tickets: https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/event/1/peter-may


Tuesday 15th January – Perth

7pm – Book Talk
St John’s Kirk, St John’s Place, Perth PH1 5SZ
Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-man-with-no-face-an-evening-with-peter-may-tickets-52906474690


Wednesday 16th January – Inverness

6.30pm – Book Talk
Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
Tickets: https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-peter-may/inverness-61061


Thursday 17th January – Edinburgh

6.30pm – Book Talk
Edinburgh Central Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh
Tickets: https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-peter-may/edinburgh-west-end


Friday 18th January – Edinburgh

12 noon – Signing
WH Smiths, Unit 14, 33 Gyle Avenue, EH12 9JT

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Spring 2018 news

I’ll Keep You Safe reached #2 in the UK hardback charts and has just been published in the USA and Canada.

The good news is that publication dates are bringing North America closer with the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The hard cover edition of I’ll Keep You Safe came out last week in the USA and Canada, so readers in North America are no longer having to wait a whole year for the latest book.  It is hoped that in the future, the publication dates of the English language editions will be simultaneous worldwide.

The paperback edition of I’ll Keep You Safe will be published in the UK  in July.


Click here to order I’ll Keep You Safe from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery

The Lewis Trilogy takes Norway by storm

This week the final book in the Lewis Trilogy hits the streets of Norway and the expectations are high that it will follow the success of the first two books.  The Norwegians are really taking the trilogy to their hearts.

The Norwegian editions of The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man have spent months in the best seller lists and are currently still at #8 and #9 in the hard cover chart, with The Blackhouse also showing at #12 in the paperback chart after publication last September!

In addition, The Blackhouse has just been shortlisted as one of the top 5 translated crime novels in Norway for 2017.

This is all great news for the tiny publishing house Goliat Forlag who put so much effort  and enthusiasm into the publication.

Long live small independent publishing houses!


Tiger Garte, Mark Jørgensen and Thea Dahlgren of Goliat Forlag publishers celebrating the publication of the final book in the Lewis Trilogy.

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Nae Pasaran

A few months ago I came across a Kickstarter project called Nae Pasaran.  I was intrigued to read that a Chilean documentary-maker working in Scotland had completed filming the story of Rolls Royce workers at East Kilbride, near Glasgow, who in the 1970s had blocked the servicing of jet engines from the planes of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet who, with US connivance, had overthrown the democratically elected socialist régime of Chile in 1973, was cracking down ruthlessly on the population of his country.  He interned as many as 80,000 people, torturing thousands more, and executed somewhere between 1200 and 3200.  (There is a wonderful Jack Lemon film set during this time, called “Missing”).   He also bombed civilians in Santiago.

It was this persecution that prompted the workers at East Kilbride to boycott the servicing of the Chilean jet engines, thereby grounding many airforce planes, and undoubtedly saving civilian lives.

The engines were put under wraps and sat untouched in the works yard for several years until one day they mysteriously disappeared.

The story so intrigued Chilean filmmaker, Felipe Bustos Sierra, that he raised the money to make a documentary about it, which he called “Nae Pasaran” – a kind of Scottish version of the Spanish for “thou shalt not pass”.  Unfortunately, he ran out of money to pay for the post-production editing of film and sound, and launched a Kickstarter project to raise the funds to finish it.

Since I was very much around in the seventies when this was all happening, working as a journalist in Glasgow, I felt that it was a project worth a donation.  I, along with others, provided the cash that has enabled Felipe to bring the project to a conclusion.  And the Glasgow Film Festival has now invited “Nae Pasaran” for a screening at its closing night gala on March 4th, when it will have it’s world première.

Sadly, I wont be able to go, but have been promised a DVD as compensation.

And one of those Rolls Royce workers, Stuart Barrie, renowned over the years for his poetry, has written a poem in my honour, which I found very touching.  Here it is:

‘Nae Pasaran’ was in a knot 

Needing finance booster shot 

When from mists Peter walked out 

Planted seeds that soon would sprout 

No story of Scot’s engineers ! 

No story of the Chilean tears ! 

No story of the engines ‘blacking’ ! 

Without your coins, without your backing 

This poem is part, of the barter 

For your generous Kickstarter 

donation given with fine heart 

Enjoy these verses a la carte 


Born Glasgow nineteen fifty-one 

Keelys were pale from lack of sun 

Lead in water pipes way back then 

Made keely’s depressed now and again 

But Peter was fine, that was until 

He got ground down in the ‘Savings’ mill 

Lines of figures, endless numbers 

Sinking fast in toxic slumbers 

So being pure gallus, being a chancer 

(He wisnie dolly, he had an answer) 

“If I stay here, I’ll melt down” 

So Peter did a runner to London town 

Then back to Glasgow, back he came 

Trainee Car Salesman, (job without shame) 

Left in a year, then did a course 

That fed his heart and vital force 

To work in Paisley to report 

On Buddie’s lives, their days in court 

So up the ladder, on his bike 

Over to the Scotsman, that was a hike 

Worked for Roy then Ken the son 

Building his craft for the long end run 

Like tousled hair, looking for a comb 

Glasgow called its own son home 

As Evening Times, ‘Background Writer’ 

Honed his skills, pulled it tighter

Then off to the ‘telly’, to use his theories 

Purvey his art in scripts and series 

Words vocation, a spate in flood 

Story and synopsis ran in his blood 

Standard, Squadron, High Road, Machair 

Literary dervish, apprentice Voltaire 

At the ripe old age of forty five 

From chrysalis came a butterfly 

Peter May … word gourmet 

Left the telly … flew away 

His first love once again embraced 

His appetite was most unchaste 

His trade now learned, his art refined 

Li Yan forensic mastermind 

appeared from out of Peter’s head 

To solve the riddles of the dead 

Now west to France for cold case files 

Peter and Enzo, Scottish exiles 

Produced Cast Iron, Blowback, Freeze Frame 

Half of half dozen that brought French Fame 

Next north to Lewis where spells are cast 

Dark streams flow from Fin Mac’s past 

Ah Pete my man ! Heyoka empaths ! 

Plumbing the soul in warm bloodbaths 

Now in Saint-Céré you domicile 

in some style, a Francophile 

But nae good curries for some whiles 

(The price that’s paid by Scotch eggs isles) 

Hope you live long, hope you live well 

Crack heart’s code for citadel 

Now in autumn of your life 

Within the grasp of freedom’s knife 

Cooked all your meals, had your fill 

Last page, last words, behold, be still.

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Farewell Joe

It is with great sadness that I write, belatedly, in tribute to my friend and adviser on all things scientific, Professor Joe Cummins, who died just over two years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer.

I didn’t know of his death for over a year.  Joe had worked and lived in London, Ontario, in Canada, for 23 years before retiring in 1996 from the University of Western Ontario to become Professor Emeritus in Genetics.  I had not been in touch with him since completing my research for the book “Coffin Road”, about bees and neonicotinoids – a book inspired by Joe’s relentless search for answers to the mystery of the world’s disappearing bees.  He had, at that time, been on dialysis, but I’d had no idea that death was so close.

My relationship with Joe spanned nearly twenty years, during which time he was my patient and tireless adviser on many books.  But in all that time I never had the honour of meeting him in person. Our relationship was conducted entirely by email – and I have hundreds of our exchanges filed away in my mailer.

It was shortly after his retirement that I first encountered him online, when I was looking for an expert to advise me on genetics for my book, “The Firemaker”, the first in a series of thrillers set in China.  He took me step-by-step through the process of genetically engineering foodstuffs – a highly complex scientific procedure not at all easy for the layman to understand.

My job was to grasp the basic principles, and makes them easily understood by a popular readership.  Joe walked me through the complexities, enabling me to do just that.  With great forbearance he answered all my silly questions, and spelled out for me with great clarity exactly how genetic modification works.

In doing so he conveyed to me the horrors of this process, and all the dangers that were, and are, being ignored by the biotech giants who are forcing their technologies upon us in relentless pursuit of profit, and with scant regard for the dangers to the environment and the human race.  This very much shaped the story I told in my book.

Joe went on to advise me on further books in the China series, as well as in the Enzo Files series, and finally on “Coffin Road”.

Joe Cummins was hugely qualified, being awarded a PhD in cell biology at the University of Wisconsin in 1962, before going on to do post doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh, the Universities of Palermo and Catania in Italy, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and the Macardle Laboratory for Cancer Research back in Wisconsin.

His interest focused more and more on the environment and in 1999 he joined the Institute of Science in Society, writing papers attacking biotech companies and the failure of bureaucrats to properly regulate them.  During fifteen years he became a thorn in the side of US regulatory bodies governing agriculture, the environment, and food and drugs.  To that end he wrote more than 200 scientific and popular articles.

In this role he was one of a team from the Institute which addressed the European Parliament on the subject of a GM-free Europe.  He concluded with three points which he believed vital to the survival of humanity: the elimination of neonicotinoid pesticides, the eradication of Bt crops – and the need to replace all bureaucrats who turn a blind eye to the destruction of nature in favour of the biotech and agrochemical industry!

Joe was a veritable force of nature, who fought for all things natural.  He was a kind, supremely generous man, with a great sense of humour, and an endless patience for this annoying writer.

I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

RIP Joe.

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I’ll Keep You Safe – new book coming January 2018

Latest Book and UK Launch Tour

an explosive return to the Hebrides with the brand new thriller….

I’ll Keep You Safe



Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own the Hebridean company Ranish Tweed. On a business trip to Paris to promote their luxury brand, Niamh learns that Ruairidh is having an affair, and then looks on as he and his lover are killed by a car bomb. She returns home to Lewis, bereft.


Niamh begins to look back on her life with Ruairidh, desperate to identify anyone who may have held a grudge against him. The French police, meanwhile, have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – and sent Detective Sylvie Braque to shadow their prime suspect: Niamh.


As one woman works back through her memories, and the other moves forward with her investigation, the two draw ever closer to a deadly enemy with their own, murderous, designs.




UK TOUR – January 2018

Saturday 13th January – Isle of Lewis

Event at Lews Castle, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Tel for Ticket: 01625 416 457
Ticket email: events@naturalretreats.com
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Lews Castle
Address:  Castle Grounds, Stornoway, HS2 0XS
Chairperson: Malcolm Maclean
Ticket price: £10 (including welcome drink)

Monday 15th January – Inverness

Event with Waterstone’s, Inverness
Tel for Tickets: 01463 233500/ 01463 234234
Tickets Website: www.eden-court.co.uk
Time: 6.30pm
Tel: 01463 233 500
Venue: Eden Court Theatre,
Address: Bishops Road, Inverness, IV3 5SA
Chairperson: Emma Murray
Tickets: £5

Tuesday 16th January – Glasgow

Aye Write Special Event in association with Waterstones & the Mitchell Library

Tickets website: http://tickets.glasgowconcerthalls.com/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=13137
Time: 6.30pm
Tel for tickets:  0141 353 8000
Venue: Mitchell Library Theatre
Address: North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN
Chairperson: Shari Low
Ticket Prices: £9

Wednesday 17th January – Perth

Event with Perth Library in association with Waterstone’s Perth
Tickets website: https://www.horsecross.co.uk/whats-on
Tel for tickets:  01738 621 031 or purchase at the box office
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Perth Theatre,
Address: Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ
Chair: Fiona Stalker
Ticket prices: £7

Thursday 18th January – Edinburgh

Event with Waterstone’s Edinburgh
Ticket website:
Tel for tickets: 0131 226 2666
Time: 7pm
Venue: Assembly Roxy
Address: 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU
Chairperson: Brian Taylor
Ticket Price: £20 (includes a copy of the book) / £8

Tuesday 23rd January – Steyning

Literary Dinner in association with Steyning Bookshop, Sussex
Tel for tickets: 01903 812062
Ticket: £30 (includes book and meal)
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: The Sussex Produce Café
Address: 88 High Street, Steyning BN44 3RD
Chairperson: William Shaw
Email: info@steyningbookshop.co.uk
Website: www.steyningbookshop.co.uk

Wednesday 24th January – Nottingham

Event in association with The Bookcase in Nottingham
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Church,
Address: Church Lane, Lowdham, Notts, NG14 7BE
Tel for tickets: 0115 966 3219
Ticket Prices: £7 full/ £6 concession/ £5 Festival Friends

Friday 26th January – London Olympia

Event at the France Show, Olympia
Tickets: http://www.thefranceshow.com/tickets
Telephone for tickets: 01242 264777
Half price ticket promo code: PMTFS18  (Tickets £6 & booking fee £0.60)
Time: 1.15pm
Chairperson: Guy Wolley
Venue: London Olympia
Address of venue: Hammersmith Rd, London W14 8UX
Ticket Prices:  £12 / £13.20 (with booking fee)

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Events and Book News for Summer and Autumn 2017

Festival Events

I will be speaking at festival events this summer across the UK…

New Books

Cast Iron
– the sixth and final book in the Enzo Files series – will be published in paperback in the UK on 27th July. buy now with FREE delivery worldwide

Cast Iron – the sixth and final book in the Enzo Files series – will be published in hard cover edition in North America on October 3rd.
Coffin Road – the standalone thriller set on the Isle of Harris will be published in paperback in North America on November 7th. click here to pre-order from Amazon.com

Coming in 2018…


I’m currently writing a new novel which will be published early 2018 on both sides of the Atlantic. Details of that will be released soon, but I can reveal that after opening in Paris, the action shifts to the Hebridean island of Lewis.

And finally…

A warm welcome to all my readers in Norway, where “Svarthuset” – The Blackhouse – has been in the best seller lists for the last eight weeks!

Hei til alle mine Norske lesere!

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Flannan Isles Mystery Fundraiser

Those of you who have read my thriller, “Coffin Road”, will know that some of the action takes place on one of a group of tiny islands twenty miles off the west coast of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

They are the Flannan Isles, made famous at the start of the 20th century when three lighthouse keepers stationed on one of the seven islands disappeared without trace or explanation.

The lighthouse stood on the largest of the Flannans, Eilean Mor, and was state of the art at the time.  However, regardless of what might have been happening on the outside, one of the keepers was obliged always to remain within.  Yet when the relief vessel arrived in December 1900, all three were gone.  Despite extensive investigation, their disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

A gift for a writer of crime and mystery books like myself.

But now a new adventure is set to bring the Flannan Isles back into public focus.  One which, hopefully, will have a much happier ending.

Three swimmers from the Western Isles – Ed Smith, Colin S. Macleod and Stuart Baird – are set to undertake a hugely dangerous relay swim from Eilean Mor, across twenty-one miles of treacherous Atlantic Ocean, to Uig on the south-west coast of Lewis.

Why are they undertaking this dangerous journey?  To raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) – the lifeboat charity that rescues an average of 22 people every day from around the shores of the United Kingdom.

And this isn’t the first time these young men have put their lives on the line to save the lives of others.  In August 2015 they swam, in relay, the sixty miles of Atlantic from St. Kilda to Huishinish on the west coast of Harris.  Following the success of that swim they were nominated for the 2016 Scottish Adventure Awards, and picked-up the team prize.

You can read all about that adventure here:  http://stkildaswim.co.uk

The Flannan Isles swim will take place during the week of 12th to 19th August this year, when it is hoped to raise £1000.  Ed, Colin and Stuart will swim, relay-style, in 45-minute bursts, supported by the crew of the Mv Cuma, and three kayakers.  You can read all about it on a website specially created for the occasion, and can also make your online donation to the event from there:


I am going to kick-off the fundraiser with a personal donation of £100, and would be more than happy if any of my readers felt moved to make a donation themselves, no matter how small.

Good luck, lads!

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