Books by Peter Mayle

Released: May 16, 2014

"Smooth as the most decadent dessert, with just as many empty calories."
A third volume in the light-as-a-bon-bon adventures of expatriate gumshoe Sam Levitt, his partner in all manners, Elena Morales, and the billionaire friend who cares more about their company and the quality of the wine than protecting his wealth. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 6, 2012

"To compensate for the absence of plot complications, realistic dialogue or suspense, the meals sound great, the ebullient badinage is genuinely witty and Mayle wears his considerable knowledge of the area lightly."
Now that Sam Levitt has recovered entertainment lawyer Danny Roth's stolen wine from dodgy millionaire Francis Reboul (The Vintage Caper, 2009), his quarry wants to hire him for a job of his own. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 2009

"The term 'easy read' was surely invented for this amiable but scorchingly efficient amusement that comes with the added benefit of menu and wine-list recommendations."
The celebrated author (A Good Year, 2004, etc.) introduces a wine-savvy sleuth who traces an L.A. cellar heist back to France. Read full book review >
A GOOD YEAR by Peter Mayle
Released: June 3, 2004

"Uncorks as a bottle without much nose, leaving but brief bloom on the palate: it needed perhaps a little more breathing time when decanted."
A Good Year (as in wines) finds Mayle back in Provence, the region that inspired his famous nonfiction debut, A Year in Provence (1990), and his first novel, Hotel Pastis (1993). Read full book review >
CHASING CêZANNE by Peter Mayle
Released: June 5, 1997

The theft and black-market sale of million-dollar Impressionist artworks fails to animate this slapdash and unrewarding fourth novel from Provence-meister Mayle (Anything Considered, 1996, etc.) The first ten pages arouse expectations of a delightful roman Ö clef with its portrait of a celebrity decorating editor who works for a CondÇ Nastish empire. Camilla is so sharply etched (imagine a combination of Anna Wintour and Tina Brown) that it's a letdown to realize that the main character is actually the photographer AndrÇ Kelly, Camilla's favorite until he happens to take an incriminating snap of a CÇzanne being mysteriously spirited out of a shuttered Cote d`Azur mansion. All too soon we know the score: After Camilla sets up status-hungry owners of masterpieces for photo shoots, her oily companion, the financier Rudolph Holtz, arranges to have the best painting from each collection stolen and replaced with a forgery; Holtz then sells the original to a reclusive Japanese or Middle Eastern collector. Echoing the words of amateur detectives from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift (``I know it's none of my business, but I can't seem to let it alone''), the not- too-smart AndrÇ joins forces with Lulu, his cafÇ au lait photo rep and love interest, and Cyrus, a tweedy, refined, food-obsessed art dealer. The dilatory sleuths waddle from restaurant to restaurant spouting culinary digressions to an ever-fascinated Lulu. (Mayle also spends lots of time describing airports and airline meals in the tone of one who's just discovered something of grave importance.) As for plot, the introduction of a hired assassin sets the table for a big explosion and a final scramble around Cap Ferrat, with everything conducted at a geriatric pace—perhaps as befits those who've dined and drunk too well and too often. It might make an entertaining cartoon (The Pink Panther in Provence?), but there's not much of Mayle's trademark wit, energy, or attention to detail in evidence here. (First printing of 125,000) Read full book review >
Released: June 5, 1996

A sinister plot to corner the truffles market provides the backdrop for another delightful trek through the French countryside in this third novel from the ever-popular Mayle (Hotel Pastis, 1993; A Dog's Life, 1995, not reviewed). An easygoing expatriate Brit with a career in film production behind him, Luciano Bennett couldn't be happier with his new, ambition-free life as a house-sitter in the tiny French village of Saint-Martin. Dreading a return to London once his meager savings run out, Bennett places an ad in the International Herald Tribune tendering his services. The ad is answered by the mysterious, extremely wealthy Julian Poe, who offers Bennett a luxurious, all- expenses-paid life in his Monaco bachelor pad in exchange for performing an occasional errand. Hardly believing his luck, Bennett throws himself wholeheartedly into a rich man's life—driving Poe's Mercedes around town and dining at the best restaurants on Poe's tab. What Bennett doesn't realize is that Poe plans to use him as the drop man for a secret formula for artificially cultivating truffles—a formula that will enable Poe to wrest control of the lucrative truffles market from the French. When Sicilian gangsters intercept the delivery of the formula, the enraged Poe threatens to kill Bennett if he doesn't recover it. A Keystone Kopsstyle chase across France ensues, involving half a dozen international gangsters, the French police, and a very unusual order of monks. Fortunately, Poe has arranged for lovely Anna Hersh, a former Israeli Army sergeant, to act as Bennett's accomplice, thus enabling Bennett to enjoy a number of deliciously romantic repasts in cafes throughout southern France before his final triumph over the bad guys. It is this gustatory travelogue, rather than the unabashedly silly caper, that will keep Mayles's loyal readers satisfied. Stylish and amusing as ever. (First printing of 150,000; Book- of-the-Month/QPB selection) Read full book review >
PROVENCE by Peter Mayle
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Poor Provence. Like some geographical cousin to the Golden Goose, it is sentenced to an eternity of laying golden eggs for Mayle (Up the Agency, 1993, etc.). In this extravagant book, Mayle teams up with Jason Hawkes, whose aerial photographs of vineyards, asymmetrically laid out French villes, marinas, freight yards, mountains, churches, and jet skis will put American readers where they like to be—above the French. Mayle's economical text is an arch accompaniment: ``One of the features of rural France is the manner in which the farmer shows his disapproval of the way the world is going...there is always something to upset him, and he often takes his revenge in messy and spectacular fashion. He dumps. He dumps melons on the steps of the Mairie, he dumps potatoes on the autoroute, he dumps cherries in the village fountain or, as he has done here, he dumps tomatoes on the banks of the Durance.'' The photo that accompanies this tribute to Gallic gall is quite spectacular, for, by a trick of perspective, the tomatoes, in varying stages of ripeness and color, look like a carnival of fungus climbing a rock. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 12, 1993

Generalities about advertising by the tireless Mayle, whose first novel, Hotel Pastis, is reviewed above. Rather than offer a riotous nailing-down of idiocies in advertising, Mayle depends more upon dry wit rather detail here and sends up the mast only nameless ad companies and misadventures with flopped accounts so that all may salute their stupidity. We get a series of amusing think-pieces about companies and accounts, accompanied by a laying-out of the guts of building and running an agency. Mayle's largest thoughts hover on a scenario in which today's some 640 ad companies will be gobbled up into 20 or so giants that will devise a new translingual ad-lingo for selling Global Biscuits to any country on Earth and for making biscuit- eaters brand-loyal. A single worldwide campaign will build on one consistent message to establish the ``international biscuit''- -``with all the glamour and excitement associated with international products.'' Historically, Mayle says, advertising ``has attracted individualists, entrepreneurs, and talented misfits.'' They join up because the ad biz promises big money fast, under the rubric ``Get Rich or Die''; because it's fun; because you can leave it after ten years and enter an allied profession at top level. He foresees, though, the decline of the individualist as mammoths merge and each new entity is run by carbon copies who are ``Good at meetings, adroit at politics, prudent, measured, solid, reliable....'' Among his gems, Mayle presents the senior VP who calls his underlings into a meeting, then peels a $20 bill ``from a fist-sized roll of bills and use[s] it to polish his already gleaming toe caps before crumpling it up and throwing it into the waste basket.'' Should hit big among Madison Avenue masochists, less big elsewhere. Read full book review >
HOTEL PASTIS by Peter Mayle
Released: Oct. 8, 1993

Consumer glories rendered by a master (the velvety Acquired Tastes, 1992) in a richly amusing first novel set in London and Provence, even more stylish than Mayle's travel hits (Toujours Provence, 1991, etc.). The productive Mayle also has a new nonfiction work this season (Up the Agency, p. 38), which pours lime on his 13 years as a junior copywriter and then creative director in the Madison Avenue ad arena. That background feeds into his novel—the story of cultivated advertising colossus Simon Shaw, now 42, tired of the ad game, divorced by his ``neglected'' wife (his former secretary), who has gone high society with a mania for fancy decoration. Taking his first vacation in over two years, Simon solos into sleepy Brassiäre-les-Deux-Eglis, where his injured Porsche must remain while parts are shipped in. Simon deliquesces in Paradise, or melts into sappy goo, under the tanned cleavage of Nicole Bouvier, a homeowner pinched by thin alimony payments. A London meet with the Rubber Barons, a condom company offering a $30 million-dollar account, and a visit to Nicole convince him that he's burnt out at advertising and would much rather refurbish the abandoned gendarmerie in Brassiäre and turn it into a first-class hotel, with the aid of his tartly well-spoken major-domo Ernest—and Nicole! Meanwhile, Hotel Pastis meets Big Deal on Madonna Street as a band of thieves dryly plan and carry out the July 14th holiday robbery of the most picturesque little bank in Provence, an event that becomes the unwanted kidnapping of a multibillionaire's son. A cedar box of Havana Churchills, a pint of white diamonds— the gift novel par excellence, its smart dialogue at full glitter throughout. (First printing of 100,000 is just frog jelly before the tads pop.) Read full book review >
Released: May 15, 1992

Consumer catalogue of the world's finest luxuries, entries first published in GQ and Esquire, by Mayle (Toujours Provence, 1991, etc.). Mayle decided to write a monthly column for GQ on luxuries and the most refined ways to spend money, with GQ's financial support of his investigations—rough work, alas. He delivers in a velvety style, telling: how to buy and eat caviar (skip chopped onion and crumbled egg yolk, don't spread it on toast like peanut butter— just get in bed with a plastic spoon and lift the black pearls to your mouth, then burst them on your palate); how to distinguish a true cigar or a great single-malt scotch; how to hire a black stretch-limo; how to maximize the joys of a supremely exclusive hotel; where to buy a shirt or $1300 hand-stitched custom-made shoes; where to have a suit made, and so on. He is especially keen about the foie gras of Provence (best in the world). He takes us on a money trip through the upkeep of a mistress and all the ``daily jolts of intrigue and adrenaline [that] are meat and drink to the mistress addict''—and talks over the odd gift to the wife to soothe one's remorse. Then there's the indulgence of hiring lawyers (``In practice, it consists of handing over large sums of money to the kind of people you wouldn't want to meet in your neighborhood bar''). And how about hiring a private jet to get you from Avignon to Paris? ``The cost would be substantial—around 48,000 French francs, or $9,000, for fuel and landing fees.'' Or a genuine $l,000 folding hat—a Panama worth its weight in dollar bills? Hmm...well, we deserve it. Much, much fun—and best read with a magnum of Dom Perignon and a four-pound tin of Beluga caviar. Read full book review >
Released: June 12, 1991

Second installment by GQ columnist Mayle of his country life in the Provencal region of southern France, following the delightful A Year in Provence (1990). Mayle, as keen and sunny an entertainer as ever, tells of French medicine, the drolleries of a French liver crisis, and the difficulties of trying to fill a prescription when an American visitor with mononucleosis needs a state-of-the-art antibiotic on Sunday. He reviews his mail, the new celebrity brought to him as the local English writer, his wife's gradual cooling toward visitors (pretty blondes make her snappish), and a signing at a Cannes bookstore during the film festival. Mayle gets much mileage out of his wife, whose Frenchified rationality makes her head of the household; she arranges birthday picnics, social occasions—and adores stray dogs. He checks out a choir of toads that may, through electronic rechanneling, sing La Marseillaise. He attends a combined wine-tasting and fabulous country meal that leaves him stuffed and unconscious. We go with him on a secret truffle buy as he hustles two kilos of smelly contraband from the French countryside to Heathrow in London. We dig up gold napoleons in his rose garden and sweep the premises with a metal detector; sit through a knockout Pavarotti concert in a 2,000-year-old outdoor Roman amphitheater while the tenor eats dinner offstage between arias. Mayle spends an evening researching varieties of pastis, an anise and licorice aperitif, two drinks of which will twist your nose; and finds his scholarly and detached attitude smoothly numbed. Very winish, dinerish—and absolutely gustatory. Read full book review >