Writer Peter May enjoyed the challenge of creating unusual lead characters in his latest thriller A Silent Death – and will talk about it at Inverness author event at Eden Court
FOR Peter May, staring out onto the Mediterranean from the window of his study in Spain powered his latest thriller with a deadly manhunt set nearby on the Costa Del Crime.
Four very different characters are tied together at the heart of A Silent Death – misfit Scots cop John Mackenzie, ruthless drugs baron Jack Cleland, Spanish policewoman Cristina Sanchez and her aunt, Ana, who suffers from deaf-blindness.
And for Peter, creating his anti-hero Mackenzie in particular, a supersmart individual who says the first thing that comes into his head, was inspired from his own life.
“I am blessed with not one but two brothers-in-law who have no social filter and the character of Mackenzie is kind of an amalgam of those two guys,” he said not long before he heads to Inverness for his author event at Eden Court.
“They go through life just saying what is in their heads – without malice and without any sense they are going to give offence.
“For most of us there are things that almost spring to our lips, but our inbuilt social filter censors us. Or instead, we say something polite,” said Peter, who agreed for that reason it was liberating to write his latest investigator Mackenzie.
Meeting his new boss at the National Crime Agency, in the new book, Mackenzie is told the man is in a bad mood as he is escorted to see him.
And he greets boss Director Beard by saying ‘I can see why they call you Mr Grumpy.’
But Mackenzie’s strong points include great intelligence and the ability to speak a number of languages – all coming in handy when he is sent to Spain to track down arch-criminal and fellow Scot Jack Cleland, who had gone to ground, until a chance encounter with policewoman Cristina flushed him out.
Then it is a battle of wits between the two men, as the plot plummets the reader into the dark underbelly of life beneath the tourist paradise of the Costa Del Sol before the book’s tense climax whisks readers to Gibraltar.
The book gave him a lot to get his teeth into, Peter said. That included portraying Ana, who suffers from deaf-blindness.
“I read a book which was testimony of 12 sufferers of deaf-blindness, their personal stories and those accounts was quite heartbreaking. It’s like your body is your own built-in prison – you can’t let the outside world in. I tried very hard to put myself into that situation, but at the end of the day, you can only imagine it.”
For Peter, the Costa Del Sol area has become familiar since he began living there seven or eight years ago, and the contrast between the two worlds he found there emerged.
He said: “One of the things I was very much aware of when we first started going there, were these abandoned housing developments because they were everywhere.
“Everyone seemed to think they could keep building and people would keep coming and buying and then came the financial crash of 2007/8 and the bottom just fell out of the market – the money just dried up.
“And these developments – some were very near finished – are still sitting there 10 years later, empty and with nature reclaiming them. You see cranes everywhere on the hillsides like giant dinosaurs.”
There is a pivotal scene in the book set there where this modern side of Spain is brought to chilling life by Peter.
But in fact his first encounter with Spain happened a long time ago, when he holidayed there at the age of 14 with his family – inspiring his first novel written as a teenager.
“The holiday was in 1966 during the World Cup where I met two girls in a resort an hour north of Barcelona, where the girls lived. They were in the care of their grandmother in this hotel. I suppose it was my first falling head-over-heels for somebody, teenage puppy love and all that stuff,” Peter laughed.
“They gave me this passion for Spain and when I went home I read books about the country and wrote my first novel, The Aristocrats In Spain – a teenage romp. The Aristokrats was the name of the band I played in.
"In a way writing this book is coming full circle because the first book I ever wrote was set in Spain.”
But warm Spanish sun will be in short supply for Peter as he starts the research for his next book. That will be in the Arctic in May, he revealed. And, the bestselling crime writer leaves an intriguing clue for fans. The new book will see the return of “a well-loved character”.
Peter May’s talk, at Eden Court on Wednesday, January 15 from 6.30pm, is hosted by Waterstones Inverness. The book, published by riverrun, is out now. Our competition winner of two tickets was: Helen Ferguson, Dingwall.