Earlier in his career, Martin Walker was a foreign correspondent for The Guardian. Now he is the author of the successful Bruno detective series set in the Dordogne.

For me, you have captured the very essence of life in rural France in your books and brought it to life. I have lived in France for a long time and am amused at how much I recognise in your typical characters, their habits and humour.

Why did you choose the Dordogne as a place to live? How long had you been living here before you felt that you knew your subject well enough to portray it as well as you do?

Martin Walker: We had since 1982 regularly been visiting friends who lived in a farmhouse near Le Bugue, and in 1997 my wife said that, as two globe-trotting foreign correspondents, we should get a permanent home for our daughters. So, we did. The first Bruno novel was written ten years later, but I had already in 2002 produced a non-Bruno novel, ‘The Caves of Perigord,’ which wove together the creation of the masterpiece of Lascaux with the Resistance battles against the Nazis in 1944. I had been bitten by the Perigord bug.

Bruno has become a legend. Readers feel like they know him and I even have a friend who “fancies” him! How did you come to create this famous detective? Was there anyone in particular who inspired you?

Martin Walker: I think it began with Pierre, our local village policeman, whom I met through the tennis club, the rugby club and the hunting club – all these pillars of social life in the region. Bruno as a copper owes a lot to Pierre’s amiable style of work, knowing everybody in the region, and he’s a great cook. But Pierre was married with a family while Bruno is a bachelor and Bruno’s interest in books and history and archaeology came from another good friend, a retired captain of Gendarmes.

Apart from Bruno, which other character did you enjoy creating the most?

Martin Walker: I’m struck by the way that I had a real-life person in mind when writing most of the male characters – like the baron and the mayor, Gilles the journalist, Jack Crimson the retired British diplomat, Jean-Jacques the veteran detective and Stephane the cheesemaker. But there is no single person who inspired any one of the women in the novels, perhaps because I find women far too mysterious and baffling to try. I suspect women are a far more evolved species that we males.

How many books are there in the series and which is your favourite?

Martin Walker: This year’s novel, ‘A Chateau Under Siege,’ is the 16th in the series and I’m now writing number 17, and always the latest one, or the next in mind, has to be the favourite. There is also a collection of Bruno short stories, titled ‘Bruno’s Challenge,’ and later this year the Bruno cookbook comes out at last in English. Co-written with my wife, Julia Watson, the food writer, the book won the Gourmand International prize for ‘World’s Best French Cookbook,’ a first for non-French authors.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Martin Walker: There is a new one each year, and as a veteran journalist I have no trouble meeting my target 1,000 words a day, which means the first draft is completed in just over three months. But the research I like to do takes just as long, and so does the re-writing and polishing.

The idyllic villages where your stories unfold are the most unexpected places for a murder to take place. What is your favourite village to visit here?

Martin Walker: I have several favourites, including Limeuil and Domme for the buildings and location, Monpazier and Beaumont for the architecture, Brantôme and Bourdeilles for the history, Tremolat for the food at the Vieux Logis, Monbazillac and Saussignac for the vineyards. And even after being here for 25 years, I keep finding new places that enchant me.

Are your books translated into French? If so, how are they received by the French?

Martin Walker: The first three are already published in French and we’re currently negotiating for the others. French reviews have been very kind, touched with some gratified surprise that a foreigner should know so much about local and French history, and write so much about the food and wines of the region. Many of them noted the impact the books have had on tourism, and I was honoured to be awarded a gold medal for my services from the Ministry of Tourism.

With a new book in the series being released in June, can you give my readers a teaser as to what it’s about?

Martin Walker: The title, ‘A Chateau Under Siege,’ explains part of the plot. A group of Silicon Valley heavyweights are gathered at a luxurious hotel-château by their host, a Frenchman, who was in at the birth of Google and has now returned home to take up a senior position in French intelligence. The book begins with a mock-battle, a re-enactment of the liberation of Sarlat from the English in 1370, and accidents will happen.

The Château Under Siege comes out on 8 June 2023.