Today Carole Finds Her Wings is once again hosting Mr Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant & May series, as part of the London’s Glory Blog Tour.
It is the first-ever collection of Bryant & May short stories and it sheds light on eleven classic cases from the Peculiar Crimes Unit as well as containing everything you could possibly need to know about the octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May.
It also contains extras such as a guide to the characters in the PCU, a cool cut-away drawing of the PCU offices and access to the contents of Arthur Bryant’s highly individual library. I loved these extras in particular – I have a thing for back-stories and maps. Tit-bits of information that you don’t necessarily *need* to know but make the world and characters so much deeper – London’s Glory is a brilliant companion to the Bryant & May series for fans but also a great introduction for readers new to the detective duo and the PCU.
I’m going to hand over to Chris now to tell us where his love of the Crime genre came from and what the challenges of writing Bryant & May are compared to writing other genres:
I suppose my love of the genre began young. I rarely watched TV as a child, but I did love ‘The Avengers’, where strange plots were the norm – the field in which rain drowns people, the village where nobody dies but the cemetery fills up, killer nannies, clocks with missing hours, houses that send you mad – and I failed to realize that these were Golden Age murder mystery plots transposed to the medium of television.
My mother was a great reader, and thanks to her I came to the classic mysteries I’d found in the library, with their academic eccentricities and timeless view of an England that never really existed. I wanted to try my hand at these stories and thought that if you’re going to describe the investigation of a crime, you might as well have fun with it.
I did some more homework. I read Sexton Blake and Raffles, who were so chinless you had to wonder how they managed to put a pillow-case on by themselves, but the early French masters were fun because they were sometimes dashing, like Arsene Lupin, or weird, like Vidocq, and Fantomas. There were R. Austin Freeman’s charming Edwardian mysteries featuring Dr Thorndyke, featuring the opposite of the Whodunnit, the ‘inverted mystery’, the How-Will-He-Be-Caught? puzzle. And there was Edmund Crispin, the spirited, funny man who composed six scores for the ‘Carry On’ films and wrote eleven joyous Gervase Fen books between 1945 and 1951. Fen is the crime-solving Professor of English Language and Literature, and assumes that the reader can keep up with him as he spouts literary allusions while cracking crimes over a pint. There were also the 70 mordant mysteries of Gladys Mitchell, starring pterodactyl-like Mrs Bradley. Mitchell was once judged the equal of Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie.
Through all of these writers, and others like Margaret Millar and PD James, I fell in love with the genre.
The hardest part was accepting the fact that after writing a great many books I was once again starting on the first rung of a new learning ladder. Smart plotting wasn’t enough; situations needed to be generated by character. Recurring staff members appeared pretty much fully-formed. The rest of the team had to have small but memorable characteristics; a constable with a co-ordination problem, a sergeant who behaved too literally, a socially inept CSM – you can’t give them big issues if they’re going to be in several books, because you don’t want their problems to steal the spotlight from your heroes.
This year I won the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger In The Library, which is given for a body of work, and finally felt as if the hard work had paid off. There’s still a lot to learn and explore, but (like Bryant & May) I’m on the case…
If you want to know more about Chris and his new Bryant & May book London’s Glory why not check out the other sites on the Blog Tour:
My previous interview with Chris can be found here: The Burning Man Blog Tour