About The Author
Born in 1956, Peter Benson was educated in Ramsgate, Canterbury and Exeter. His first novel, The Levels, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. This was followed by A Lesser Dependency, winner of the Encore award, The Other Occupant, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award, and three more novels, Odo's Hanging, Riptide and A Private Moon.
He has also published short stories, screenplays and poetry, and his work has been adapted for television and radio and translated into many languages. He lives in Exeter with his wife.
His latest novel is Two Cows and Vanful of Smoke, a tale of adventure with as many twists and turns as the enchanting Somerset landscape that forms its backdrop.
When young Elliot gets a labourer's job at Mr Evans's after being sacked from a pig farm for liberating six of its sows, he thinks he'll have even more opportunities to lean on gates or stare at fields. But his best mate Spike keeps getting him into trouble, first by showing him what is being grown in a tucked-away polytunnel, and then turning up at his caravan's door with a van full of weed. As Elliot tries to help his friend get rid of the hot merchandise, they find themselves at the receiving end of a cruel cat-and-mouse game.
Above all, it's a celebration of the English countryside - full of magic, history and superstition - where smoke is in the air, and where not all is what it seems.
Here Peter talks about childhood dreams of exotic travel, his offbeat ideas and his ideal dinner party.
Below the interview is a list of titles by Peter Benson currently in print in the UK. You may find other editions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page and selecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.
Questions & Answers
What led you into writing?
I wasn't led into it - it led me. Paul Theroux said 'You can't want to be a writer. You have to be one.' I'm not arguing.
What was your earliest career aspiration?
I wanted to be a merchant seaman, travel to the Far East, jump ship in Shanghai, travel through China and discover a new species of bear.
Can you describe your latest book, Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke, and its inspiration in thirty words?
Two lads find a greenhouse full of dope plants. They steal the plants. Bent policemen and Buddhist psychopaths chase the lads through the Somerset. The seed of the novel was sown in the 1970s, in a village in Somerset. It took thirty-five years to germinate.
Do you have any plans for your next book?
I'm currently writing a novel about a 98-year-old English aristocrat who's waiting in his crumbling house for the police to arrive and arrest him for sticking a Toledo stiletto in the eye of a radio producer who said the wrong thing to his daughter.
What has been the most exciting moment in your career?
Too many careers and too many moments, but every time I change my phone number and email address is exciting. So lots of exciting moments.
What are you reading right now?
The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing by Norman Mailer. 'At your desk,' he writes, 'it is best if you do not come to like yourself too much.' Easy.
If you could have dinner with three people, past or present, who would they be?
Caravaggio, Mary Magdalene and Sarah Palin. The first for the drink, the second for the gossip, the third for the humiliation.
Which period of history would you like to have lived through?
Paris in the 1920s.
If your house was on fire, which three books would you save from the flames?
Animal, edited by David Burnie, Montaigne's Essays, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan.
What do you do to relax?
I walk from my place to a café on the corner of the street, sit at a table, drink a bottle of red wine, smoke cigarettes and watch people go by.
Past Events for this Author