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The Vintage Caper Paperback – July 13, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Q&A with Peter Mayle

Question: The Vintage Caper begins and ends in Los Angeles, which you’ve not explored before in your writing. What led you to set parts of the book there? Are you a fan of the city?

Peter Mayle: The inspiration for the story came from California, and so L.A. seemed a logical place to start. Also, I had long cherished an urge to stay at the Chateau Marmont, which I was able to do in the worthy name of research. Very nice it was too. As for the city, I was unable to find the centre, but those parts I did see I enjoyed.

Question: Where did the character of Danny Roth come from?

Peter Mayle: Danny Roth is a mixture of several movie people and agents I’ve met over the years—quick-witted, talkative and relentlessly self-absorbed.

Question: This book is a bit of a love letter to the city of Marseille, which isn’t a place that usually inspires such rapturous praise. Do you think it’s underrated?

Peter Mayle: Marseille is certainly underrated, and I think it still suffers from the reputation gained in The French Connection.Marseille’s problem is that it is not a city that makes an effort to put itself out for strangers. It is what it is, take it or leave it—patches of squalor next to buildings and neighborhoods of great beauty; a tremendously mixed population, with origins in France, North Africa, and Italy; the almost religious support of Olympique de Marseille, the local soccer team; the pride in all things Marseillais, from its bouillabaisse to its soap; the highly vocal distrust of the government in Paris—all this I find fascinating. And then there are the people ofMarseille, known throughout France as masters of exaggeration. Nowhere else in the world will you find the humble sardine described as a shark. In other words, Marseille is a great stew of a city, filled with terrific things for writers to get their teeth into.

Question: What led you to write about a wine theft? What kind of research did you do for the book?

Peter Mayle: I read an article in The Herald Tribune about a robbery carried out in California, one in which the thieves concentrated on the very sell-stocked wine cellar, ignoring everything else. I don’t knowif theywere ever found, but the unusual precision of the robbery intrigued me. Why did they just steal wine? Presumably they were going to sell it, but to whom?And how did they get into the house and clean away? The more questions I thought about, the more it seemed as though the answers would make a great story. And the research, focused as it was on wine, was delicious.

Question: Have you had the pleasure of trying any of the wines that were stolen from Danny Roth?

Peter Mayle: Yes, but not often enough. In fact, I’ll never make a serious wine connoisseur. Taking small and reverent sips is not for me; I like to drink a wine rather than worship it. Give me a well-filled glass and a second bottle waiting in the wings and I’m happy.

Question: This is your first novel since A GOOD YEAR in 2004, though you’ve published two works of nonfiction, CONFESSIONS OF A FRENCH BAKER and PROVENCE A-Z, in the interim. What prompted you to return to fiction—or turn back to nonfiction in the first place?

Peter Mayle: I enjoy writing fiction because there are no restrictions; you’re inventing. And I enjoy nonfiction because you don’t have to make it up; you’re describing. Choosing between the two depends entirely on the subject and the idea, and THE VINTAGE CAPER came about because of an idea prompted by that newspaper story.

(Photo © Jean-Claude Simoen)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Mayle uncorks a winning wine caper in the tradition of To Catch a Thief. When a hot-shot Hollywood lawyer's most treasured and expensive wines are stolen, his insurance company calls in Sam Levitt, a gourmand and lawyer-of-all-trades with a varied background, to investigate. The investigation takes Sam to Paris and Bordeaux, where he hooks up with the elegant insurance agent Sophie Costes, a fellow wine and food snob. The trail finally leads them to a man named Francis Reboul in Marseille, and soon, with the help of Sophie's journalist cousin, Phillipe, they get an in with Reboul and close in on closing the caper. While the plot may be predictable, the pleasures of this very French adventure—and there are many—aren't in the resolution, of course, but in the pleasant stroll through the provinces and in the glasses of wine downed and decadent meals consumed. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Reprint edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307389197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307389190
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Leary Blaine on October 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fun, well-constructed tale. Keeps moving. Written with Mayle's typical cleverness and skill with phrasing. But it's very *light* fiction. It's plot-driven vs character-driven. Reading "A Year in Provence" makes one think. Heck, Mayle himself -- as a reluctant "character" -- revealed the evolution of his own biases over the course of that book. That was excellent: the writer as unwilling participant, revealing more about himself to the reader than perhaps he intended as the writer.

There's nothing like that here. It's a good story, with pleasant characters and a lot of fun. But it won't leave you contemplating anything more serious than why you haven't had a good bouillabaisse for a while.

This is the kind of book that only authors with several best sellers to their credit get to publish. If a first-time author were to approach a publisher with this manuscript, it would never see the light of day. But Mayle is a brand. And I'm a fan of that brand. So I'm happy to have read it and enjoyed it very much. But I hope you'll find it useful to know that it's at the lighter end of the Mayle spectrum (like, say, Grisham's "Playing for Pizza").

Enjoy! (Under the sun)(Tuscan or otherwise)
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By M. Naiman on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you have an interest in Marseilles, France and travel there in general, you may find this book interesting. As a work of fiction though, it has to be one of the worst books I have ever read.

As a "Who Done-It?" mystery, the story fails completely. While the pretext of the crime itself is at first intriguing and makes sense (a three million dollar wine collection is stolen from an L.A. wine collector), how and why his main character, Sam Levitt, ends up in France, and figures out who the main culprit is makes almost no sense at all. Once the culprit is revealed, it is all downhill from there. What follows for the remainder of the book is a complete lack of intrigue or action. The plot line becomes annoyingly predictable and is surprisingly devoid of any of the usual twists or turns traditional to the genre. Sorry for the spoiler, if you can call it that, but the story ends exactly how the main character predicts it will.

Mayle's characters are also pathetically cliche and one-dimensional. While this, again in the tradition of the "Who Done-It?" genre, can sometimes be forgiven if the story is at least intriguing, sadly it is not.

More annoying still is the pretentious and overly repeated message from Mayle: L.A. is phony and plastic while Marseilles is the Mecca of wine, romance and fine dining. Mayle goes into excruciating detail about every bite of food his one-dimensional characters take. It seems his real intention is to impress you with his knowledge of Marseilles and French cuisine while the story and plot are thrown in as an afterthought. Ironically though, while the book is supposedly about great French wines (whose legendary vintages are listed by Mayle ad nauseam), the subject matter itself is barely explored at all by the author. Most wine enthusiasts reading the book would probably be very disappointed.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Hollywood entertainment lawyer Danny Roth cherishes his wine collection, insured for three million dollars. He is so full of pride over his vintage collection he boasts excessively about his vino darlings during a Los Angeles Times interview. However, Danny feels violated when someone who obviously read the article absconded with his wine collection.

Insurance agent Elena Morales hires her former boyfriend Sam Levitt, a wine connoisseur, to investigate the theft. He follows the trail to France where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes, a wine and food gourmand. They soon track the purloined wine to Marseilles with billionaire wine collector Francis Reboul as the prime suspect behind the theft.

This is an amusing crime caper that will have readers toasting Peter Mayle with A Good Year French champagne. The story line is fast-paced and straightforward as the shortest distance between California and French Lessons is between Sam and the other players. With a solid cast, Vintage Caper is lighthearted fun as each key participant makes their play for the valuable vino with not one of them fully trusting any of the others.

Harriet Klausner
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Wallau reader on December 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Many years ago Peter Mayle was a good writer. "A Year in Provence," "Hotel Pastis" were well written and entertaining. This latest is a piece of garbage. Boring from the word go, with as shallow a plot as I've ever seen. He seems to have written this for no other reason than to impress us with his "knowledge" of restaurants and wines but that knowledge in both cases could easily be gained by googling. A complete was of time and a real disappointment.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Reader8 on November 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not just Mr. Mayle's worst book, but one of the worst in the universe of literature. From the vapid, almost non-existent plot to the completely detached characters, this book offers nothing to the reader. Does "caper" imply a modicum of suspense? Literally none is found here. Mr. Mayle owes me a Cotes du Rhone for this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leif Salvesen on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Peter Mayle knows wine, food and France, and he got to know and appreciate Marseilles and what a fine city it is. That's in this book but it's not easy to enjoy because it's all buried in such a mindless tale.

The dialog is for sixth graders, the plot is non-existent, the characters are not very likeable or interesting. Mr. Mayle should stick to what he's good at and leave the intrigue to others.
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