Where Next For Bryant & May?

Bryant and May, Reading & Writing

The tenth volume of Bryant & May was a milestone for me, but also reached the end of my second story arc so I have a clean slate, as it were. They may never appear in the bestseller lists but the books sell consistently and are very well received, for which I’m continually grateful. But now I can choose in which direction to take the characters.

Which is where you come in. I thought I’d canvass opinion from the experts and find out if you think there’s something you’d like to see that I haven’t covered. I don’t mean ‘victim beaten to death with a swan’ or anything that specific, but in broad themes.

Here are some examples of what I mean. I could make the stories less plot-driven and more about the characters. I could make them more fantastical and bizarre. I could make more about the minor team members. I could make them darker.

So far I have several plot ideas I’m pursuing, but one idea keeps surfacing. Arthur and John have left a trail of case-mentions that I’ve not explored. In the course of a new investigation Bryant could reveal the truth about each of these cases, and use them to help solve his next case. On the plus side it would satisfy all those readers who ask me about the past cases, but on the minus side it would be episodic in nature, and is unlikely to sell as well as a straight novel. But it appeals to my Golden Age sensibilities to do such a book…

We’ll see how you vote, and I WILL listen. I realise how lucky I am to have the luxury of choosing what I want to work on next, but the important thing is to listen to feedback. Any author who doesn’t do that is an idiot.

The comic panel is from Keith Page’s lovingly rendered depiction of Bryant’s seance in the upcoming ‘Casebook of Brant & May’ this autumn.

48 comments on “Where Next For Bryant & May?”

  1. David Read says:

    I think the fact that Bryant is prone to such exaggeration gives you real freedom to perhaps push the boundaries of what is real and not (as in the 77 clocks) whilst not removing from the reality they live in. I loved the way (in the 77 clocks) this quite fantastical story was gently pooh-poohed by May as rather fabricated by Bryant. I think there is also the real pleasure of seeing Bryant and May in the fifties / sixties etc. which has an appeal all of it’s own.

    I also think the White Corridor was interesting as it took them outside of their comfort zone (and therefore ours) and produced a very claustrophobic feel, and also had the sort of prologue for their antagonist which was different..

    A darker story is always welcome, and I think it would be fascinating to witness the PCU if they really were facing something truly horrifying, where their lives, not just their career was likely to be snuffed out.

  2. Rob says:

    Ever since I read ‘Full Dark House’ I have loved Gladys Forthright and would love to have another ‘past’ case involving her and even young Longbright. Mabe something set during the Sixties.

  3. BangBang!! says:

    Wouldn’t want you to do anything to make the series less popular or more difficult to sell but I would like to see them go a bit darker at times. I enjoyed the Leicester Square Vampire backstory very much. Not in a schadenfreude way but just the interactions of the characters and the absolute despair and horror that they obviously all felt. Just don’t let anything happen to Janice or I’ll throw a tantrum!

  4. Matt Brown says:

    Team up with Ben Aaronovitch and do a cross-over story involving his wizarding Met officers.

  5. As you know, I am a huge fan of the books and have reveiwed them and plugged them.

    I love the idea of hearing how some of the old cases were solved – after all, there are so many years of their partnership to consider!

    I would tend to shy away from more fantastic or bizarre settings if by this you mean fantasy type writing. I did not think B&M sat very comfortably with that when you first introduced them, and that the book was much better in its later version with those elements removed.

    Best wishes and please keep writing BM for ever.

    Guy

  6. Patrick says:

    I personally would love it if you just set a novel in the past, as a standalone mystery instead of a part of a story arc. What other cases did the PCU investigate during WWII, for instance– its beginnings are rather shrouded in mystery, after all. As much as I love Bryant and May, I would love to see them back in their prime, working without the aid of modern technology to solve a complex mystery.

  7. Tracy Lee says:

    I’d love to see Bryant and May when they were younger – particularly in the 60s. My favourite book is the first one, simply for seeing them how they were when they first worked together.

  8. Dan Terrell says:

    I need to think on this longer, but I remember Annie some while back suggested a story set in Bedlam. (Of course, the Invisible Code touched on this, but never the less.) May we post on this later? Perhaps as riders to another column? This current column will eventually float over the cliff edge of 9/30.

  9. Trudi says:

    Someone has already mentioned that they enjoyed The White Corridor because it took B&M outside their comfort zone. How about a story where Bryant is confined to a hospital bed (he is getting on afterall), forcing the other members of the team to do his bidding, ply him with books and interact with his more unusual sources on his behalf? I know this device has been used in the past (Morse and Poirot and possibly Holmes) but in all those cases I have really enjoyed seeing a detective solve the case in restricted circumstances, using nothing more than his imagination and having to rely on others to do the leg work on his behalf.

  10. Stephen Groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    I vote for darker story lines with some having strong connections to earlier cases,also 1 wouldn’t be aggrieved if some where actually set during the early years of the PCU.

    all best
    STALKY

  11. Alan Morgan says:

    Their Moriarty.

    They’re certainly old enough (by far) for someone they put away a long time ago to have served out his or her time and been seething away all this time. Indeed, a nemesis just as old as they and in many ways in the same vein – and here knowing the pair, their strengths and weaknesses. It can thus touch on the wish for many to see older cases, and still keep it in touch with modern London. Whether the older case is one later a part of the casebook, or the novel is actually split between then and now, would of course entirely depend on your good self (nice of me to say so I know).

    Or that is how it seems, when as is hardly new I admit it is the offspring of such a person. I just like the idea of our aging pair to be led about by the nose by a little old lady villain who confuses things for them by knowing what Bryant is like. Since she is as conversant (or has becone such) with London as they it still allows for the exploration of folkloric London.

    Plus there’s space then to take the piss out of Miss Marple (and associated rips).

  12. Wayne says:

    As I have said before…… Many times. Mystery and weird is the key lets not go down “The Bill” route and turn them into a soap opera. There is nothing wrong with stand alone books. Character development is good, I like the idea of knowing more about Janice’s “Gift”. I Love your rich descriptions of London and the darker streets…. I have also asked for more early stories where B&M were younger, Full Dark House being my Favourite with strong ties to the past is a way more books could go.

    Just Keep writing them they are Great books with fantastic characters and rich story.

  13. Sam Tomaino says:

    Well, I just want to continue to see more books with them, whatever you do. I would love hearing stories about old cases in any way you could do them. I’d also like more about the supporting cast!

  14. J. Folgard says:

    I’ll vote for early PCU cases too. And I think I’d enjoy a bit of ‘serial’ structure if you can find a way to do it.

  15. I definitely like the idea of Bryant in a hospital bed forcing others to bring him stuff (the the hospital really don’t want in the ward) and visit people they really don’t want to visit.

    I also really enjoyed ‘Rune’ with the puzzle-solving aspect (not strictly a Bryant and May, but they are there!) The little-old lady mentioned by Alan Morgan above could do that to them!

  16. Andrea Yang says:

    Early Bryant and May sounds fantastic! Looking forward to the Casebook release. I also enjoy learning the backstory on all the other PCU figures.

  17. Phil says:

    Take them abroad…………….say…Paris, I can imagine Arthur Bryant being very rude to the French & the two of them running round Notre Dame at midnight. Will the B & M graphic novel be available at the Fantasy con?? Be nice if you were launching a book this year. Looking forward to seeing you in sunny Brighton!!

  18. Chris Lancaster says:

    The idea of B&M outside their comfort zone, as mentioned above, is very appealing. It may be difficult as it would surely be hard to include other members of the PCU, but the idea of B&M in another historical city such as Paris, Venice or Barcelona – and seeking help from local friends of friends – is very attractive. Of course, you’d need to visit the relevant location in the name of research…

  19. John Howard says:

    Lots of ideas from the interested so far but how about a little combination of two thoughts, B&M are giving a seminar to the Met about their older cases and how the solving of them is relevant to todays modern policing. This would give lots of opportunity for Arthur to get up the hierarchies nose and maybe John is trying to keep him in line. Meanwhile the rest of the team have a new case to deal with, possibly two, with the boys popping backwards and forwards, meddling and providing the odd spark of wisdom.

    I know its a bit like White Corridor but hopefully far enough away not to be too close to be considered a copy plot.

    How about Raymond being given the opportunity to start a bit of one-upmanship and he starts getting his own back for some of the slights so far, much to his surprise of course. A bit like the biter being bit; but the one now doing the biting not being sure he knows how he is doing it.

  20. Dan Terrell says:

    Sir Arthur did little to explain Holmes’ references to his other cases. He wisely let these mysteries stand for future generations to debate. John Dickson Carr and Adrian Conan Doyle eventually put out a series of shorts based on such referenced-only cases. They were published in Colliers magazine and I collected them, but Mom got to them in later years and heave oh – out they go. However, I can now only read them as I would the Dead Sea Scrolls since my old paperbook is browned and flakeable. Had Doyle explained these references the Baker Street Irregulars, as well as Solar Pons, would have little to do. So consider carefully explaining away B&M’s name-dropped-only cases;ration them out or create more. And, perhaps, no truly grim/dark cases, it could ruin the fun.
    Bryant & May in a “foreign” local without their comfort zone sounds good, but I think such stories frequently don’t come off as well as everyone hopes. Although you can probably do it, but do you really want to do it? However, going to Paris through the Chunnel for a day or two in the middle of a London case that should work well. (Suppose they met a pipe smoking French police inspector named Jules “Mayday” or such. That might work smoothly. They could be chasing a French lady thief you knows something they need to hear and May charms her, but she is more facinated by Bryant. “Oh, ze amazing affectations, ma cher Arthur. Merci, for the little sweet pellet with ze pocket fuzz.”
    Have Bryant confined to a bed, perhaps at home with Alma, that might be good. Have him sprain his foot and need a sword cane. The other members of the team would run in and out while he solves the case; and May coordinates the field work. For this you would have the chance to take on Josephine Tey and her “The Daughter of Time.” You could have fun with a case like that, perhaps, even as old. And Bryant could remember other case – just a few.
    Now, I must say that Will Shakespeare got Edward III wrong. “That dastard Tyrrell” was not sent to the Tower at night to smother the two little princes (they were bastards so no threat to Edward and the Tower was a residence of some royals). If Tyrrell actually went, he was undoubtedly bring them a nice take away Indian.
    I took my quite new wife to London on the way back to the States and we visited Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum, She saw my namesake Sir Janes directing the pillowwork. Made an impression, indeed, it did.
    I look forawrd to reading what you cook up next.

  21. admin says:

    Okay chaps, I think that with your help we now have the first of the two books, and as I already have the other, we’re back in business. Thanks to everyone who contributed here. Your royalties check is in the post.

  22. Stephen Maddock says:

    You mustn’t take B&M too far away from their home , because they are London !!
    What about Arthur finding out he is a member of MCC, and he is asked to sit on the committee to develop the successor to the Duckworth/Lewis method, I can just imagine him having to deal with those stuffy characters that inhabit Lords.
    In the end Christopher , I love how you write so please don’t stop!!, and as Im now awaiting your next book , do you have any old shopping lists I could read !!!

  23. jan says:

    i reckon young BIMSLEY and his spatial awareness issues could carry a story especially suitable for just NOW because of the way the paralympics has been designed and in a big way has succeeded in making us think about how differently abled folk can function in challenging enviroments. i know for a large part BIMSLEY junior was slotted in to replace his dear old dad Colin BIM SNR as a bit of muscle and a vehicle albeit a challenged one for chases etc but his relationship with stroppy MEERA has bubbled along nicely for ages and it would be nice for a change if a novel was perhaps written from their perspective incorporating their views of their senior officers and their reactions to their orders and tasks. They r both trying to move on from the more mundane aspects of major enq work bins, house to house, follow ups, phone work and minor surveillance given a chance to use their initiative wot would they come up with – would ARTHUR and John need to rescue them or vice versa? Could be interesting. And will they finally get it together she shows all the signs of being in love with the dependable old duffer……theres a star trek epsisode (u guessed i was a trekkie surely had 2 be!) that was actually based on Upstairs Downstairs with lower ranking officers carrying the story and the usual major characters relegated to support roles and it worked surprisingly well. I think Meera and Colin should be thrust into the Limelight and be protagonists O and can i get an invite 2 their wedding wot they r not real not real noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.. see ya jan

  24. jan says:

    the above sounds a bit bad like the paralympics enviroment is a poorly designed enviroment didn’t mean that honest! In fact am going on friday. i meant that the p.olympics has made us think how hard it can be for differenly abled people (how politically correct am i?) to cope swimming, jumping and running distances – even getting into swimming pools, function on public transport etc am going to stop b4 i mix meself up again!!

  25. jan says:

    the above sounds a bit bad like the paralympics enviroment is a poorly designed enviroment didn’t mean that honest! In fact am going on friday. i meant that the p.olympics has made us think how hard it can be for differenly abled people (how politically correct am i?) to cope swimming, jumping and running distances – even getting into swimming pools, function on public transport etc am going to stop b4 i mix meself up again!!

    no i have’t chris

  26. jan says:

    i can wreck any computer set up i make that Arthur Bryant look like a bit of an amateur

  27. Ken M says:

    B & M are public sector to the core. In future they will investigate crime in association with the private sector. God knows what any service level agreement or memorandum of understanding would look like between the PCU and G4S.

  28. Lulu says:

    There’s one in every crowd. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Take them out of London? They are London, London is them.

    I’m sure there will be changes. Not too much I hope. I have never had such fun, and I’ve read a great number of books. I adore these two men, especially Bryant. And their ensemble cast is terrific.

  29. Lulu says:

    PS. The only poor review I ever saw was on the 77 Clocks, and that is the only one of the series that was never acquired by our public library, which is very large with numerous branches.

  30. BangBang!! says:

    Oh yes, Colin and Meera’s potential (or not) romance could make a great sub-plot perhaps with Meera being in danger. Or Colin, of course – no sexism! Or even together. The rest of the gang are working to try and free them. Although that sounds a bit like Disturbia to be fair.

  31. Helen Martin says:

    Any or all of the above. If you take the referenced cases and explain or describe them all in one volume then you limit what you can do with them later. Not good. A Daughter of Time type plot might be interesting but I don’t think Arthur would be inspired. He’s actually very present in his attitude; it’s jut that he allows his knowledge of the past to inform his present. (And I think it was Edward IV you meant, Dan.)

  32. Dan Terrell says:

    We’re both sort of right. It was Richard the III, my error, who may or may not have had the princes killed. One of whom was Edward V. They were the sons of Edward the IV. Well, let’s look at it this way. The question was NOT on the British citizenship exam. Cheers to that.

  33. Steve says:

    Take them to the States, possibly during the war. The clash of cultures is a rich vein for mining, don’t you think?

    I’ve just checked the post, and nothing. How disappointing.

  34. snowy says:

    We arrive as Arthur awakes in a neat and tidy room, it is a fine summer day and the early morning sun streams into the room. We follow Arthur’s thought processes about a case as we follow him through his morning routine of washing and dressing. There is an feeling reminiscent of the French Riviera when it was fashionable. And Arthur’s spirits are buoyed, as if he is on the first morning of a long awaited holiday. He even has clothes specially purchased for the occasion.

    We move to a dark and filthy, grey concrete loading bay, the air is filled with the stench of decaying food from the bins and the cloying smell of diesel exhaust fumes. George takes a tray of bread rolls from the delivery driver and raises an disapproving eyebrow at the cigarette ash dropping from the drivers roll-up. The driver suitable chastened, removes two rolls from the tray and after a quick blow and a polish on his greasy jacket returns them, saying ‘good as new, boss’.
    George decides discretion is the better part of valour, and turns on his heel to return inside.

    Arthur is still mulling over the case as we find him looking in the mirror, trying to decide at which angle his new yachting cap should be. At the back of the head like Tony Curtis, or dipped over one eye in the style of Hemingway. Undecided he plonks it squarely on his head allowing gravity to take its course. He leaves his room and glides down the corridor, pausing only to doff said headgear as ladies pass, being a new arrival he is a source of considerable interest.

    Spotting a display of cut flowers, he considers ‘adopting’ one for his buttonhole. It’s only when he realises that they are plastic and irrevocably glued in does he finally give up. As he floats down the stairs his thoughts on the case are interrupted and his focus turns to breakfast, and what he might have to start this day of days.

    We return to the kitchen, to find George, his sleeves rolled up as he tries to unblock a grease encrusted sink, full of foul smelling effluent with the odd carrot chunk to lighten the mood. Around him there is a bustle of people working away, punctuated by the crash of pans and outbursts of swearing from the “chef”. The “chef” spotting him turns to George and says “Stop sodding about with that bloody sink, and get a jacket on, Ron got pissed and fell over last night, so your waiting on tables now”. With a sigh George lays down the tool he had so cunningly fashioned from a coat hanger and goes off to clean up before changing out of his pinny into a suitable jacket.

    Arthur pauses in the lobby and briefly considers a short walk before breakfast, but his stomach makes its preference known and he strolls into the dining room, nodding and smiling at the other guests, Selecting a small table by the window, and sitting down, he flicks through the menu, pondering what to have, the kedgeree or the kippers. Spotting George emerging from the kitchen Arthur catches his eye, and George winds his way over, patting the jacket pockets to find a pad and pencil.

    “What would you like, Sir?” asks George finally locating the required stationery, “What’s the kedgeree like?” asks Arthur barely concealing a smirk, “It’s not something I’d recommend, Sir”.

    Undefeated Arthur asks “And the kippers?”, “Off I’m afraid, Sir” replies George.

    “Would the chef prepare me a dish of Egg’s Benedict do you think?” As he asks this Arthur can see the colour rise in George’s face.

    Arthur’s smirk has now lost all it’s inhibitions and is plain for all to see. At this point ‘George’ leans in close to Arthur’s ear and hisses

    “What are you doing Arthur, this is a residential home for elderly thespians, not the Ritz Carlton! We are here undercover to find out what on earth is going on! If they were just dying in agonising pain, I’d blame it on the kitchen! But I doubt even they, could produce a curry that would cause them to spontaneously combust!”

    Arthur shifts in his chair and moves closer to ‘George’ lowering his voice, “Sorry John, but I couldn’t work out how you were going to write down my order with the asparagus spear you have tucked behind your ear”.

  35. Elizabeth Rose says:

    Minority opinion here I suppose, but I’d rather they didn’t get a lot darker. Liz

  36. Kieran Cowan says:

    I like the idea of Bryant having to commune with somewhere other than London, though I think it should be less alien to him than Paris. Edinburgh strikes me as a place with it’s own history that would reject Arthur rather than him rejecting it. The city of London’s palaces seems like a good theme. Were murder to strike, in say Eltham Palace, an unoccupied public trust, would that drift towards a sensitive crime? The history of London’s museums, too, has a lot of rich madness over the years. The newspapers of London, are even more of a rich cesspit, with histories that stretch through a lot of dark places, in many cases over centuries.

    As a long serving fan, (divorced from London though it is), I’ve always found the murder of Laetitia Toureaux a striking, fascinating subject. It raises a lot of questions innately relevant to the mystery genre, not just daring the writer’s ingenuity to solve or top a real event, but also the moral question of the deserving victim. Can a crime be ingenious enough, against a victim unpleasant enough, that we should admire rather than condemn it?

    Apologies for my rambling, and posting this rather late in the subject.

  37. jan says:

    just one more attempt to wreck your page set up! wOT WOuld u use as a back drop next time? you have done done the underground, theatres, churches (but not very satisfactorily i might add bit obviously a work in in the latest book) the underground rivers etc wot would u use for the next one ?
    i think your’e going to have to jump in -sorry,sorry- and think about the river. i know we have gone over this b4 ages ago but you ve never ever really done the river. u know the walk the old boys do every day could u make a story which contains the origins of that walk when they were youngsters? AND theres tons of curiosities around the banks of the Thames did u know that Tower bridge had its own mortuary at one point. the rooms still there it had loads of jumpers Tower bridge guaranteed success from that high walkway i suppose thats why they boxed it in when it reopened. the walkway back in the 80s it was closed for years cos of the suicide rate. Thames division plus the old lads could make for some fun i’ll send u a proper e mail about that if u want. Thames dvision is a very interesting subject in itself oldest police div in the world i think cos of the docks. Theres all the tunnels foot tunnels etc the barges near Tower bridge near the posh flats who are always complaining about their neighbours the bargees i think theres mileage in that. Then you’ve got everything else to play with from Dolphin square the tidal reaches i think i sent u some stuff about that from Teddington dock. You’ve got all out east your original stomping ground and the subject i kept rattling on about during the first olympics the rivers disasters near the Limehouse cut which moved ship building away from London. There was another major disaster with a pleasure boat colliding with a trade ship which killed over 500 in the 19th century. then you ‘ve got the barrier that russian sub that someone bought hoping it would become a major tourist attraction. Me and Bernie went that was about it. theres loads of interesting stuff round about Barking which i have rattled on about at gr8 length on previous occasions the fishing fleet etc. Anyway best go JJ has his first job interview today and i need to get him outta bed at least !! Think about it its time to do the river and maybe throw in the canals also did i send u that book about Londons canals? i think i sent one

  38. Looks like you’re all set and don’t need any more ideas, but I’ll just second the idea of delving into the past, either WW2-era or the 1960s and Gladys Longwright.

    I just finished The Invisible Code—which was fantastic, especially the theme and presentation of the culprit(s)—and the vignette about Arthur’s old romance made me wish for more on that, too.

    Another vote not to go much darker here. I think the current tone is perfect.

  39. Mike Carrington says:

    Some fantastic ideas up there and no doubt you’ve already decided… For my pennysworth I love the idea of a ‘Miss Moriarty’ and also of them venturing to Paris or an American city, even. But to be honest, you could transcribe the ikea catalogue, I’d buy it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart…

  40. Julie Robinson says:

    I LOVE the little bits of fascinating ‘hidden London’ history and stories in the books. I hope these still appear with at least the same frequency and detail (if not more) in future books whatever direction you take.

  41. Leonie Panayi says:

    Love the way you dig up the forgotten gems of London and make the reader want to find out more about them… (Palace theatre, underground rivers, disused tube lines etc…) Lincoln’s Inn Field Law Courts is a fascinating labyrinth of a place- maybe there’s some scope for a connection with that? There are so many areas like this in London that would bear closer examination and might throw up a few exciting plot ideas… other than that some more early (wartime) cases would be great, or looking in to some of the other cases Bryant mentions in passing…. I’m sure you’ll come up with something great….
    from a former ‘Bryant’!

  42. Patricia Penon says:

    I love the idea of a standalone mystery set in the past.

  43. Jon Masters says:

    Would definitely like some more of their past, especially if it were entwined with a current case (one of the things I liked best about Full Dark House). Darker or more fantastic would be fine, although like most crime fiction readers I’d be disappointed if there were no chance of working things out myself (” an invisible goblin did it “)
    As for character development – OK, but not as a ‘Star Trek guest star’ episode. One thing I would like – isn’t it about time Bryant thought about passing his skills and knowledge on, for the future of the PCU ? And who would make the best mentee ?

  44. Bri says:

    What about a trip to Dublin? Such a grand city!! Cheers ;-)

  45. Andy Hitchens says:

    Stay in London

  46. Paul Galliford says:

    I agree with your proposal to look back at Arthur & John’s previous cases but as with part of ‘Full Dark House’, I would like to see the stories set in their time – what were they doing in the 40s, 50s, 60s? How did they annoy their seniors then? How did they get in touch (or not) with technology? etc etc. There must be some wonderful opportunities to set their adventures in times past. Whatever you decide, I for one will enjoy it.

  47. BangBang!! says:

    I love Jon’s idea of Arthur mentoring. That would be hilarious!

  48. Karen Pinder says:

    You did once mention you wished to return to Calabash – maybe combine the two since Bryant is in a fantasy world most of the time anyway. Then you could revive Eliya and Rosamunde. I’d love to read that.
    Karen (Eliya’s Mum)

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