Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence, dead at 78

Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his bestselling A Year in Provence and other works set in his adopted country, died Thursday at age 78.

Author's book A Good Year adapted by Ridley Scott into the 2006 movie

Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his bestselling A Year in Provence and other works set in his adopted country, died Thursday at age 78. (Getty Images)

Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his bestselling A Year in Provence and other works set in his adopted country, died Thursday at age 78.

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Mayle died after a brief illness in a hospital near his home in the south of France.

A Brighton native, Mayle was in his late 40s and had worked in advertising and in educational publishing when he moved to France in 1987, planning to write a novel.

But, as he told the Guardian in 2010, he was so caught up in the new world around him — "the farmer next door, the mushroom hunter and the lady with the frustrated donkey" — that he wrote to his agent, Abner Stein, telling him that the novel wasn't working out.

"Eventually I sent Abner a long letter, largely inspired by guilt, trying to explain why I hadn't even started the novel, listing some of the distractions," Mayle explained.

"To my enormous surprise and relief, he wrote back saying that if I could do another 250 pages like the letter, he might be able to find a publisher."

A Year in Provence, released in 1989, was a word-of-mouth success that sold millions of copies, was adapted into a miniseries by the BBC and was credited with opening up a market for such other expatriate stories as Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun.

Mayle's other books included the children's stories Where Did I Come From? and What's Happening to Me? and the novel A Good Year, adapted by Ridley Scott into the 2006 movie of the same name, starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard.

Marion Cotillard listens in as author Peter Mayle speaks during a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for the film Ridley Scott's film adaptation A Good Year in Toronto in 2006. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

In recent years, Mayle completed a quartet of Caper novels: The Vintage CaperThe Corsican CaperThe Marseille Caper and The Diamond Caper