But "The Marseille Caper" is a short, easy read, and, as always, Mr. Mayle's affection for Provence, Marseille and its surroundings (such as the Camargue with its wild horses and the pretty port of Cassis) is catching -- except when he gets pretentious and, for example, smugly tells his readers that the Manchego cheese served to Sam was "sliced thin, the way it should be."
When an intervewer once asked him how France had affected his work and life, he replied, "It's inspired it. If I didn't have France I probably wouldn't be able to do anything. It's made me more observant, more relaxed, and I hope that comes across in my writing. It's made me just a more peaceful guy."