A Bryant & May Question

Bryant and May, Reading & Writing

‘Bryant & May and the Invisible Code’ is off and running this week, and I’m buried neck-deep in research about Bloomsbury, madness, codes, churches and Hellfire Clubs. There’s a lot to cover in this volume, which needs to tie up some backstory and stand alone as a good mystery.

At the moment, we still have no publisher for our beautiful graphic novel, but I’m hoping that some smart publisher comes on board in the fullness of time. I’d love to get it out in time for the tenth volume of Bryant & May.

Meanwhile, I have a question; do you prefer the Bryant & May novels to be entirely stand-alone, or do you prefer them with links to what has gone before?

I ask because ‘Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood’ has got some of the best reviews of the entire series, and it’s more stand-alone than any of the recent volumes. When I need to know things like this, I figure it’s best to ask the readers…

17 comments on “A Bryant & May Question”

  1. Peter Lee says:

    Personally I like a little continuity. As one who has read the books from the start, in sequence (and all of yours since “Roofworld” was first published) I enjoy the links back to previous stories and also the feeling that we’re following these characters, so with every book I’m wondering if Colin Bimsley will finally have his way with Meera and so on. I don’t think the stories should become a numbered series as this will put so many people off – there are several such sets of books I’ve never touched, Wodehouse for example, as I’ve no idea where to start – but for those of us who do read each one as soon as they appear it is nice to have some continuity.

    Oh, and as for the “stand-alone” thing what about the open ending of this one? I’m eager to know what happens next.

  2. Simon says:

    I agree with Peter. Each book should be able to be read as a stand-alone but in the background some links and themes can cross between books for the ‘serial’ reader.

  3. Stephen Groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    I agree with Peter,I like the relationships building between the team members throughout the series, but the crimes stories to be stand alone.

    All Best

  4. Wayne says:

    Hear hear i agree Stand alone and some continuation of character growth. Love Janice to get a bit more mystic…

    Peter Said everything i cant really add to his comment. I agree with him.

    Mr Fox was a good connection for two of your books but i felt i could have read either and not needed to read the other although i did because i am like that…..

  5. Philip Jackson says:

    Yep, I’ll add to the swell of public opinion on this one. Continuity is good, but not to the extent that it would alienate a new reader. The charm of these novels, for me, is that each new novel is like meeting up with old friends again, and Mr F, you’ve created characters that a reader can grow to care about. However, it’s also good that most of these novels can be picked at random, and appreciated on their own merits.

  6. M@ says:

    Yes, it’s hard to disagree with the previous comments. Making references to earlier stories as subtle as possible could be a good tactic – the regular readership will enjoy spotting them, while newcomers won’t notice and hence will not feel left out of the party. The best allusions to other stories are those where you mention something that hasn’t been narrated yet (e.g. a famous case the unit worked on), which then gets discussed more in a future novel. Such seeding of forward references make the series even more cohesive without the reader having to enjoy the books in any particular order.

  7. Sam Tomaino says:

    I like keeping up some continuity, especially with the supporting characters. I like to see their stories go forward.
    Many mystery series MUST be read in order as subsequent books feature characters who were suspects in earlier books. Fortunately, this is not a problem with the Bryant and May series. The only obvious problem is in the first book but anyone reading it who knows it’s part of a series ptobably figured a certain character wasn’t dead anyway.

  8. Gretta says:

    This is said with the proviso that I’ve yet to read Memory of Blood. I’m one of those annoying people who never read book series in order, so story arcs are less important to me, but having said that I do like a bit of flow between books. Like Stalky said, the crimes can stand on their own, but it’s nice to learn a little of the back story of of PCU members, and to watch them grow.

  9. madmary says:

    I haven’t read the books in order but I still like the links. In fact when I read a book that refers to a story I have yet to read I love then coming across that story and finding out what it’s about. The links are part of what I enjoy. I think the stories are fairly standalone in that you don’t need to have read them in order but having these threads weaving in and out make them more intriguing. There is a lot of reminiscing in the books anyway so time and continuity is very fragile. Not sure if I’ve expressed that well.


  10. Helen Martin says:

    Peter & Philip said it for me and Mary’s remark about reminiscing is a good point. Do you need further comment, Chris, or do we plead for anyone with a counter opinion to chime in soon?

  11. Aaron Lerpiniere-Tunn says:

    Agree with Philip on this score, like the continuity and seeing the development/ growth of the characters, but also as a writer you want to draw the new readers in with small hints leading them to other books, characters etc.

  12. Cid says:

    I’m currently reading this sci-fi series of six books. They’re fairly good but they absolutely have to be read in order. The trouble is the author evidently feels they also need to stand alone, which means he spends page after page of each book after the first going over what’s gone on before just in case someone happens to have dropped in halfway through. It’s my impression that it winds up the non-new reader (it does me, at least), and probably overwhelms the new reader who didn’t start at the beginning.

    That doesn’t exactly answer the question, but it’s a something to compare it to. ‘The Lost Fleet’ is the series in question.

  13. Oldlought says:

    Hi Chris. Just finished Memory of Blood (nice cliff hanger ending) and loved it! The characters continue to develop with each book and I can’t see how this can continue without reference (oblique or otherwise) to past events. No reason why the crime being investigated cant be “stand alone” however. Not that Im getting greedy or anything, but a stand alone crime AND a continuation crime or sub plot (like Mr Fox or what seems to have been set up by the Memory of Blood ending)would “knock my socks off”! With my feet, not a pretty thought, but I am sure you get my drift………….

  14. Chris Lancaster says:

    I think stand-alone is probably best from a sales perspective, but continuity from a story perspective, obviously.

    I know it’s a different medium, but I think that Doctor Who is currently going through this crisis – good old-fashioned story-telling sacrificed for the sake of the long-term story arc, to the detriment of all. Kids want to see people being shot by Daleks, not something that they won’t understand if they miss an episode. So, in Bryant & May terms, stand-alone stories would be good, but with just a smidgen of back-story and continuity to keep the long-standing readers interested. I greatly admired the use of the fake Wikileaks file at the start of Memory of Blood to allow newcomers to the series to be brought up to speed, by the way.

    For future works, ideally you’d come up with a character such as Jack Reacher in the Lee Child books. I avoided reading these for years, but recently read the first four books in the series. Even though I don’t really enjoy them, I admire what Child has done, which is to create a series where, because of the itinerant nature of the lead character, each novel can be completely standalone with no mention of the last. Similarly, he’s made the lead character such a stoic that he doesn’t have to worry about telling us what Reacher is feeling for the majority of the time. I don’t know if this was accidental, or whether Child recognised faults in his writing that led him to come up with this approach, but either way it is a very clever answer to your conundrum!

  15. Alan Morgan says:

    The light is just brilliant in that first piccie.

  16. Eliza says:

    If I find a book like yours which I fall in love with…the characters are so perfectly written, I go to the beginning and read them all. I like the story to standalone, but the characters, like old friends progress on. When I read I love the continuity, the little mentions of something I know. It doesn’t have to be much but it adds a warm satisfaction at finding out how their life is going on, bad or good, happy or sad. I am concerned for them as you are for a friend or friends you only see occasionally. I am reading Rune at present and stretching it out as I don’t want it to finish. Please keep them going for years even if you have to go back to when they were 50 or 60 and fill in more cases…!!! You have a very special gift making so many of us happy.

  17. Lisa Q says:

    I love the connections to past books. It feels like a reward for paying attention all these years 🙂

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