Winner of two French literary prizes, "The Blackhouse" was a major best-seller in the UK and has been published to critical acclaim around Europe and beyond. But for several years Peter May had given up all hope that the book would ever be in print.
The extraordinary story of May's hugely popular "The Blackhouse" began several years ago when the author couldn't find a publisher for the book that he described as, "the best thing I've ever written". His rejection letters contained quotes that would have enhanced the cover of any best-seller:
"an outstanding thriller"
"a darkly atmospheric read"
However, in the days before the Scandinavian writers introduced the world to psychological thrillers set in obscure locations, none of the publishers felt they could market a book set in the remote Outer Hebrides of Scotland, thinking that it wouldn't reach a wide enough audience, and so although May's agent believed in the book, it was universally rejected by all the publishers to whom he submitted it.
Devastated, May set the book aside and forced himself to focus on other projects; until, one day, he mentioned the book to his French publisher, who asked to read it. Editions Rouergue's Danielle Dastugue loved the book, and immediately made an offer for world rights. The French, with their strong tradition of Roman Noir literature, had no problems with the melancholic atmosphere of the Scottish islands and the troubled policeman investigating a crime which opens old wounds of his own.
It was unheard of for a French publisher to buy world rights for a book written in English, but "The Blackhouse" was translated into French as "L'ile des Chasseurs d'Oiseaux" - The Island of the Bird Hunters - and was published in May’s adopted home of France within months.
It was immediately hailed as “a masterpiece”
Top French Literary prizes followed, confirming the book's quality. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Les Ancres Noires in Le Havre, France, in 2010 and in 2011, was awarded one of the world's largest adjudicated readers' prizes - the French CEZAM Prix Litteraire.
After bidding wars at the Frankfurt Book Fair, "The Blackhouse" was published all over Europe to critical acclaim.
In the UK, the dynamic young publishing house, Quercus who had not existed when "The Blackhouse" had first been submitted to UK publishers (and who brought Stieg Larsson to English-speaking readers) immediately saw the book's potential and published it in the UK in February 2011.
The hardback went straight into the top twenty; the paperback went into the UK top ten in its first full week in print and spent eight weeks in the UK bestsellers' list.
"The Blackhouse" was voted "Favourite Read" of the influential "Richard and Judy Book Club" in the Fall of last year, and received accolades from all the major UK reviewers.
"melancholy … brilliant" The Literary Review
"[May's] finest work... an impeccably written murder thriller" Daily Express
"A chilling setting for a gripping novel... impressive writing" The Times (London)
"400 pages of pitch-perfect dialogue and creepy, spine-tingling storytelling."
"A beautifully written, haunting and powerful examination of the darkness of men's souls and how hard it can be to bury the past, The Blackhouse is also an outstanding page-turning murder mystery" The Independent (Ireland)
It has already captivated initial American readers, earning starred reviews in both The Library Journal and Publishers Weekly:
"Scottish author May (...) has written a mesmerizing new trilogy opener. May brings the story to a breathtaking conclusion with an astonishing twist at the end."
The Library Journal (starred review)
"May’s brilliant first in a trilogy … Abundant local color (...) matches Macleod’s tormented emotional landscape … The struggles of such multidimensional characters (...) add depth."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The Blackhouse" is the first in a trilogy of books set in the Scottish archipelago, the Outer Hebrides.
Watch and listen to Peter May tell the story of the book's publication here:
"The Blackhouse" is published by Sterling Publishing's Silver Oak imprint (ISBN: 1-4549-0127-