THE GENESIS OF ENZO MACLEOD
Cast Iron is the latest in the Enzo Files series of cold-cases.
Peter May discusses how he came to draw more and more on his own life experiences when drumming up his series protagonist Enzo Macleod, and how the series very nearly didn't come about at all.
Cast Iron, the latest red-hot thriller in Peter May's bestselling cold-case series is coming out 12th January.
Posted on December 15, 2016 in Behind the Scenes
Tags: Crime, Peter May, autobiographical, cast iron, enzo macleod, france, research, scotland, thriller
The character of Enzo Macleod was very nearly stillborn. I had conceived of the idea for the Enzo Files after (what later turned out to be my breakthrough book) “The Blackhouse” had been universally rejected. I wanted to write something in the crime genre that would fit neatly into current interest in forensics and cold cases, but would also give me the chance to explore the culture and history of my adopted country, France.
I knew, of course, that I was not in a position to write from the perspective of a native Frenchman, and so I came up with the character of Enzo Macleod, an ex-pat Scot who had been living in France for twenty years. Enzo had been, in my blueprint for him, the leading forensics expert in Scotland before falling in love with a French woman and baling out of an unhappy marriage to set up home with her in France.
But as I started working on his fine detail within the broad brushstrokes I had originally outlined, I found I was drawing more and more heavily on my own life and experience. Enzo is a lover of music, and played as a teenager in a band – which I had done. At the opening of the series he was just turning fifty, which was around my own age at the time. He had long hair tied back in a ponytail, just like me. He even dressed like me, in cargo pants and baggy shirts and sneakers – an old hippy, as I had often been called. He is a lover of good wine (I am a chevalier of the wines of Gaillac in south-west France), and loves to cook, as do I. Part of his personal life even mirrored my own – I, too, had left an unhappy marriage, losing custody of my daughter in the process. My lifelong guilt about this became Enzo’s great emotional burden, and the series in many ways deals with his process of coming to terms with that.
Interestingly, when I first pitched the idea to my then UK publisher, the editor dismissed it out of hand. Enzo, she said, was far too old to be the leading character of a series. I took umbrage at that. It was almost like saying that I was too old to be a writer. That might have been the end of Enzo right there, but ironically it made me all the more determined to write him, and I am happy to say that time, and sales, have proved me right. Enzo is probably one of the most popular characters I have ever written.
Many readers have made the assumption that Enzo is me, and that I am Enzo. But while there are many aspects of Enzo’s character and background which were drawn from mine, he definitely took on a life of his own, exhibiting plenty of character traits that certainly do not belong to me – at least, I hope not!
In the end, however, I would have to say that of all the characters I have created over a long career as a writer of television and books, I have never felt the same affinity as I do towards Enzo.
And when, at the end of last year, I came to write the final book in the series, “Cast Iron”, after a gap of more than five years, it was like being reacquainted with an old friend. Then, when I wrote the final words of that book, it became a very emotional farewell to that old friend, because I knew I was never going to see him again.