Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his best-selling “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.”

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