Six Things You Didn’t Know About My Books

Bryant and May, Reading & Writing

Here’s the first of a couple of columns about things that crossed my mind as I was wandering through Bloomsbury today, nearly getting hit by buses. They’re details you probably don’t know, and certainly didn’t need to know;

1. James Bond might be the Devil. In my upcoming memoir ‘Film Freak’ there’s a story about the creation of the poster for ‘You Only Live Twice’, which features 007 walking across the roof of a volcano in a tuxedo. If you look carefully you’ll see he has cloven hooves instead of shoes. This is because the artist was told that Bond scales a sheer wall in the script, and as he hadn’t seen the film he used his own imagination to work out how the superspy might manage such a feat.

2. Many surnames of my characters come from places rather than people, because they’re easier for me to remember. The Whitstable family in ‘Seventy Seven Clocks’ are so-called because my mother was living in that seaside town. I used the name ‘Endsleigh’ because there’s a building called Endsleigh Court in Tavistock Road, opposite the spot where terrorists blew up a London bus on 7/7.

3. On the very first printing of ‘Full Dark House’ the artist made a mistake and gave John May a pipe instead of Arthur Bryant. The cover was subsequently corrected but a few slipped out – if you’ve got one of those, they’re worth more. There’s also a mistake on the cover of ‘Bryant & May and the Invisible Code’ – can you spot it?

4. The inside cover of Soho Black could have got me arrested.When we did the shoot, we had the model standing on top of a telephone box waving a gun at passers-by in the middle of Whitechapel market. A policeman wandered past and asked if it was loaded. We said no, and he told us we might want to hurry it up in case somebody decided to shoot him back.

5. The two ‘odd books out’ in my work are ‘Sharper Knives’ and ‘Flesh Wounds’ because they both have illustrations. Several were done by Graham Humphries, who recently painted the astonishing ‘Hell Train’ cover, and John Bolton, the Batman artist. Two drawings were by the ‘V For Vendetta’ artist David Lloyd.

6. The story ‘Something For Your Monkey’ in ‘The Devil In Me’ contains the germ of my play ‘Celebrity’, which has finally become ‘Falling Stars’ and starts workshopping in October before a finished West End version appears. Many of my stories are tryouts for bigger things, and in them can be found the roots that grew into much larger projects. Buried among the stories is a sequel to ‘Spanky’ and a missing chapter from ‘Dracula’.

22 comments on “Six Things You Didn’t Know About My Books”

  1. Mike Cane says:

    >>>The inside cover of Soho Black could have got me arrested.When we did the shoot, we had the model standing on top of a telephone box waving a gun at passers-by in the middle of Whitechapel market. A policeman wandered past and asked if it was loaded. We said no, and he told us we might want to hurry it up in case somebody decided to shoot him back.

    God, what year was that? I can’t imagine that post-9/11.

  2. No that I’m intending to sell it, but my copy of ‘Full Dark House’ is indeed wrongly piped. I should have spotted that… I’ll never make a detective.

  3. Peter Lee says:

    Yay! I’ve got a valuable “Full Dark House”!

    Re “Invisible Code” is it that Bryant is taller than May, or is it that the window frames are missing towards the bottom?

  4. Peter Lee says:

    >> “The inside cover of Soho Black could have got me arrested.When we did the shoot, we had the model standing on top of a telephone box waving a gun at passers-by in the middle of Whitechapel market. A policeman wandered past and asked if it was loaded. We said no, and he told us we might want to hurry it up in case somebody decided to shoot him back.”

    Just looked at my copy and this picture isn’t there… but “Psychoville” has someone standing on top of a phone box. Mistake?

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    My copy of Soho Black does not have a man standing on a telephone box, but it does focus on a fair amount of female thigh. (I’d have never noticed, ladies, if I hadn’t been searching for a phone booth/box. And it’s an inner cover by the way.)
    And yes, I’ll go with Bryant being taller than May. Although the two didn’t visit the Museum together and the red string, Ch**st’s blood, was never loose as depicted. (I’ve felt something was off for sometime, but couldn’t put a mental-finger on it.)
    Very strange that the poster artist would give Bond claws. By the time “You Only Live Twice” came out the franchise had been around for many years and Bond has always depicted wearing some sort of footwear. Perhaps, the artist was just messing around. An interesting cinematic footnote.
    Details, details… for want of a nail and such…

  6. BangBang!! says:

    I have a rarer copy of Full Dark House too!

  7. BangBang!! says:

    In the Bond poster, perhaps the artist was thinking of ninja tabi shoes as it was set in Japan. Although they’re on the wrong feet if he was!

  8. Peter Lee says:

    Dan – I thought the red thing was the thread tied around the wrist rather than the blood.

  9. Dan Terrell says:

    You may be right, Peter, but (spoiler!)the dead wife cut her wrist because she didn’t have a red thread. So what is it that Bryant and May are exchanging? (Government red tape?) Maybe that’s the cover’s error. Or could there be two.
    I read the book slowly to savour it, perhaps too slowly. Best.

  10. Peter Lee says:

    Dan – They’re exchanging the thread. That’s how I saw it.

  11. admin says:

    Hi Peter – You’re right on both counts. Bryant is taller than May and the book was indeed Psychoville. For an explanation of the mix-up, check my posts early next week.

  12. Craig Tuffley says:

    My Full dark house also has the mistake

  13. John Howard says:

    Rats. My copy of Full Dark House is correct. I feel as though I have just dropped out. Woe is me.

  14. snowy says:

    Having been daft enough to copy the image, rotate and zoom in with the GIMP, I think BangBang!! is right.
    The foreground foot has the big toe curled over the rung with the other toes jammed underneath. There are also the thongs of the sandal drawn in.

  15. snowy says:

    My nose is starting to twitch, and I suspect lower appendages are being tugged.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    I have read Full Dark House twice and mean to buy my own copy, as I was telling someone ten minutes ago, so I had better look in used books rather than new. When I first looked at Invisible Code I wondered if the illustrator hadn’t been paying attention or what. It’s a good cover and all, but May should definitely be drawn taller. I assumed that the picture was symbolic of the code rather than pictoral. I really enjoy the use of colour on these covers.
    Do we have a date for “Casebook”‘s release?

  17. Dan Terrell says:

    Searching I find 11/27 is a common date, but the place I ordered from at first said a bit earlier. However, it now says Arriving Soon. Seems like around U.S. Thanksgiving. Just discovered I am missing two B&M books, who the heck did I loan them to?

  18. BangBang!! says:

    I think they are actually meant to be tabi shoes but on looking closer they are on the correct feet!

  19. jan says:

    endsleigh court in Tavistock road inspired the name of endsleigh insurance originally the N U S insurance based first at UCL – yes i know BORING

  20. snowy says:

    I think someone, perhaps from the more excitable end of the religious spectrum has added 2+2 and got 666, and a myth was born.

    If we remove the Bond figure, what is left is just lots of ninjas ab’ing down into the volcano lair of some nutter with a rocket. While helicopters provide covering fire, probably not the best way to storm a fortress. But hey it’s only a “movie”.

    Now if we take the Bond figure alone and ignoring the feet. He appears red because of the glow from volcano [that isn’t really there, because the rocket would have sunk.]

    There is something satyric about his posture, I can’t quite remember where I’ve seen it before, perhaps a Maskelyne poster or one of the other magicians of that era. But it was not new even then, and any other pose would look unbalanced and not very ‘Bond-like’.

    I can see how putting those two together, one could sort of get to the horned one. And I can see how the ‘volcano’ could represent the ‘Pit of Hades’.

    But the iconography fails because he presides benignly as thousands of avenging angels, some with wings (rotary they may be,) storm down into Hell.

    The Bond figure looks more like he was stuck on as an afterthought.

    The man who drew it is still with us and still active, I might ask him if time allows.

  21. Bob Low says:

    Am I alone in thinking that Bond in this poster looks like he’s being menaced by a giant metal suppositry? I hope so.

  22. ritchie says:

    just thought i e mail you and say what a great book invisible code is.been a long time since ive read a book i cant put down, probably before that it was memory of blood. got girlfriend reading your books and she has got her family to join with mine in reading your books. best friend has just started full dark house and he doesnt like anything that might be crime. again top marks

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