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The Vintage Caper Paperback – July 13, 2010
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A Q&A with Peter Mayle
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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Top customer reviews
By the author of "It All Started with a Bicycle"
"The Vintage Caper" is a small little novel that packs a big punch. By 2009 Mayle has tightened and compacted his writing. The reader finds themselves spending more time on each page. That is not to say that "The Vintage Caper" is not a page-turner. One can understand, however, that Mayle is conveying more ideas, more description, more creativity in smaller spaces.
Three years later, in 2012, we catch up to the main characters of "The Vintage Caper" in "The Marseille Caper."The Marseille Caper These two novels should be read in tandem. I had read "The Marseille Caper" first and now I must gladly re-read it to solidify the connections between the two.