2021 – a strange year
I wrote no new book in 2021. Instead, I took time out to write music and make use of a new studio I created above my garage.
Here we are in the studio listening to rough mixes after a recording session.
Normally in January, I would be packing up and heading to the UK to do a three-week promotional tour for my latest book. I would usually spend a week in London doing press and radio interviews, then set off on a trek round the UK to do talks and signings. This year the book – The Night Gate – was being published in March, delayed by the Covid crisis of the previous year.
When lockdowns due to the virus began in 2020, I had to abandon my idea for a book set in the Arctic circle as the research trip had to be cancelled.
Confined to France and a 40 km radius from our home, I had to come up with a new idea, and so The Night Gate was conceived. A new adventure for Enzo Macleod, it has two timelines, one present day and one during the second world war, mainly set in and around Carennac and Saint-Céré, and other places I know well in France. One scene even takes place in the apartment above the garage which is now my music studio where, in reality during the war, many works of art from the Louvre were hidden from the Nazis!
A physical launch tour for the book was out of the question because of social distancing restrictions, so this year there was a whole new approach… a virtual tour undertaken from that very music studio. Interviews with journalists began in January and carried on into February and March. There is traditionally a launch party for the new book in London with all the top book reviewers having a meal in London with me and my publisher. This year it was replaced by a virtual launch and a hamper of specially chosen food, drink and delights from South West France, was delivered to the homes of the journalists. We then met up and enjoyed the fare together on a video call.
I was able to speak to book groups, book shops, and libraries all over the UK. With professional sound and video quality from my studio, I was able to do radio interviews for the BBC and independent radio, and TV for Scottish Television and Sky News.
The new set-up was so successful that the interviews and book talks continued into April and that’s when things became very complicated.
In April, Quarantaine (the French version of Lockdown) came out in France and the French media were completely knocked out by it. All the newspapers wanted to interview me, with big articles being published in Le Monde and Liberation. French TV and radio wanted interviews, too. And although I wasn’t having to travel further than my studio, my brain was in a spin, switching between books and languages and trying to remember whether I was answering questions about The Night Gate in English or Quarantaine in French!
Dagger in the Library
In July, there was another virtual event. The British Crime Writer’s Association awards ceremony for 2021.
I was attending from my study, in shorts and tennis shoes (slightly more relaxed attire than the dinner jacket that would normally be required!)
The glass of bubbly in my hand was to celebrate receiving the CWA’s “Dagger in the Library” award. This is an award voted for by UK librarians and awarded to a writer for their body of work.
Master of ceremonies Barry Forshaw announced me as the the winner and quoted Sue Wilkinson, the chair of the 2021 committee who said: ‘Peter May infuses his books with a real sense of place, whether it be China, France or the Hebrides. His books are tense, atmospheric and complex but always utterly absorbing.’
It took a month or two for the award itself to reach France, but here I am with the “Dagger in the Library”… in the library!
Looking forward to 2022
I will be writing a new book in 2022 to be on the bookshelves in early 2023. Maybe by then this pandemic will be past, and I can venture out once more to meet my readers.
Speaking of which, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous New Year!
And above all, stay safe!