- Author: Peter May
Book online «The Noble Path: A relentless standalone thriller from the #1 bestseller Peter May (intellectual books to read .txt) 📖». Author Peter May
Also by Peter May
The Lewis Trilogy
The Lewis Man
The China Thrillers
The Fourth Sacrifice
The Killing Room
The Ghost Marriage: A China Novella
The Enzo Files
The Man With No Face
I’ll Keep You Safe
Hebrides (with David Wilson)
First published in Great Britain in 1992 by Piatkus
This ebook edition first published in 2019 by
an imprint of
Quercus Editions Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © 1992 Peter May
The moral right of Peter May to be
identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library.
PB ISBN 978 1 78747 795 7
EBOOK ISBN 978 1 78747 796 4
Ebook by CC Book Production
Cover design © 2019 Headdesign.co.uk
‘I did not die, and did not remain alive; now
think for thyself, if thou hast any grain of
ingenuity, what I became, deprived of both
life and death.’
– Dante’s Inferno
I first had the idea for The Noble Path in the mid nineteen-eighties. I had wanted to explore the idea that in certain circumstances innocence can be a more corrupting influence than evil – simply because it knows not what it does.
The story itself was a departure from my usual crime/thriller genre, though I suppose it might loosely be described as a thriller. But I see it more as a very human adventure set against the brutal canvas of south-east Asia in the 1970s.
It takes place in the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, when the murderous and anarchic regime established by the Khmer Rouge in neighbouring Cambodia systematically annihilated three million people. This was not so much ethnic cleansing, as the eradication of thinking and educated people. The Khmer Rouge saw intelligence, and the expression of ideas, as the biggest threat to their existence.
Rereading the book nearly thirty years later, I note with some sadness that one of its primary themes – a refugee crisis caused by the mass migration of people trying to escape war and poverty – is with us every bit as much now as it was then. Replace the ‘boat people’ of Vietnam with the sub-Saharan Africans dying in their thousands today, as they try to escape war and poverty by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in dangerously flimsy boats.
To facilitate the writing of my story I made a trip to Thailand, but was unable to journey into Cambodia, which was still an unstable and dangerous place. And so most of the research that followed was achieved by tracking down and reading copious numbers of books dealing with the recent history of the region. No internet then, or easy access to video footage.
I was at the time working as a script editor on the Scottish TV soap opera Take The High Road. To write the book I took a two-month sabbatical from the show, bought an old manual typewriter, and drove down to south-west France in my Suzuki Jeep, where I rented a gîte. Every morning I drove into the town of Saint-Céré and established myself in a corner of the Café des Voyageurs, where I wrote around 1,600 words a day using the Pitman’s shorthand I had learned as a journalist. At night I sat alone in my gîte typing up my shorthand, and fighting off the large numbers of brown bugs that somehow managed to crawl in under the door.
At weekends I generally found myself invited to dinner parties hosted by expat Brits and Americans. It was at one of these that I had the great good fortune to meet a lady called Maud Taillard, then in her sixties. Seated next to her at the dinner table, I soon discovered that she had spent several years living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. There her late husband had been physician to the King, and she told me of their many adventures, including nightly visits to an opium den in the city.
I went on to call on her at her impressive home in the thirteenth-century medieval village of Carennac, where she showed me mementos and photographs of her time in Cambodia.
The daughter of a French father and English mother, Maude became the model for one of the book’s characters, La Mère Grace, the madam of a Bangkok brothel. I was concerned when she read the book that she might take offence. I needn’t have worried, as she proudly told anyone who would listen, ‘That’s me, darling!’
I didn’t finish the book during that time in France, and it wasn’t until I had quit Take The High Road a little over a year later that I had the time to do so.
I have edited the original manuscript very lightly. The biggest change involved cutting much of the sex that I was told at the time was a prerequisite for a bestseller. Reading it all these years later, I revisited the embarrassment I had felt writing those graphic scenes. Times and tastes change, and I think the book is much the better without them.
I am proud and happy to republish it now, nearly thirty years on.
Cambodia: April 1975
There is a seventeenth-century proverb which says, ‘When war begins hell opens.’ In this once lovely country in the heart of Indochina, hell opened when the war ended.
This, then, was liberation. Sullen youths in black pyjamas and red-chequered scarves cradling AK-47s with all the warmth they could not feel for their fellow human beings. It wasn’t