Just How Old Are Bryant & May?

Bryant and May


arthur and john392Cary Grant was once sent a telegram, ‘How Old Cary Grant?’ To which he replied, ‘Old Cary Grant Very Well Thanks.’

Reader Jane Abbott says: ‘I’m curious to know how old Bryant and May are in the present day? I’m new to them, and I’m on my third book – Seventy Seven Clocks – and thoroughly enjoying it. But sometimes I get the feeling that they might be a bit to old to be capering about like this!! Replies are eagerly awaited.’

It’s a question I get a lot…

There are three answers to this, Jane – one is revealed in ‘The Memory of Blood’ (I think), when Raymond Land questions the accuracy of the dating of Arthur Bryant’s memoirs (which, it is revealed, these tales are). We suddenly realise we’re seeing everything through Arthur’s rheumy eyes, and knowing his playfulness, we get the sense that he lies about details like age to make the story better.

Two – I know modern 80 year-olds whose activity levels would seem inconceivable to the previous generation, and I wanted to have detectives who could fight entrenched ageist attitudes. Having said that, John May is a cancer survivor, and I think if memory serves Bryant had a heart attack, plus there are many ailments they must deal with. As Bette Davis said; ‘Getting old is not for sissies’.

And three – you could argue that although certain elements move on due to the span of the writing of the series – like technological improvements – the stories could all conceivably take place in the course of a single year with the exceptions of Vols 1 and 3. And I do make concessions to Bryant’s age; he avoids stairs, uses a stick, takes inappropriate naps and is generally cantankerous!

Actually, there’s a fourth point – it’s fiction, and they don’t have to age at all. Like Miss Marple or Bart Simpson or David Cameron, they’re not real. The biggest problem is the finite date of the Second World War, which straddles the 20th century dating everything. It’s something that marks everyone born in England, a peg upon which family memories are hung.

So, how old are they? Aged, but hopefully timeless.

11 comments on “Just How Old Are Bryant & May?”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Their age is something best not dwelt upon as it can only lead to a twisted brain. I find the best way is to think “post retirement age” and leave it at that.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, and the Cary Grant story? I heard it as a reporter receiving a telegram from his editor who needed the age of the story’s subject, Gar Wood. “How old Gar Wood?” “Gar Wood fine how you?”

  3. chris mccall says:

    I asked this question on one of your very fist message boards/websites over ten yrs ago and you kindly replied in a response,I think you said they were 81 and 83 at the time.

  4. admin says:

    Dear Chris, nobody loves a man with a good memory.

  5. Alan Morgan says:

    Of course they don’t age, they’re dead. Honestly putting us off the trail like this. They remain at the age they died. The clues are there as to when they actually went but whether it’s because of Maggie Armitage that they materialise, whether it’s that this is Arthur telling the stories as he perceives them in an extended LA Story (or being deliberately obtuse, because Arthur dies when Arthurs decides he has the time to be dead), or whether it’s a bit Spanky is still somewhat out as yet. Long into the night do the Fowlerites discuss and argue as to which and more it might be. Haunting pubs. The ghosts of Hungerford Bridge. The increasing search for redemption in the novels. Churches an increasing theme. It’s all there. Mr Fox* did them in is a popular new theory but the old guard knows it goes back further than that.

    I shouldn’t say this as Grand Master Stalky will set Brother Snowy** upon me now.

    Mine’s a pint; so mote it be. As we say in our secret Fowlerite lair beneath St. Pancras.

    *The son of Cpl Jones from Dad Army – he took his mother’s maiden name. The British tv show to gather all the aging actors and cast them in often ribald or cantankerous fashion acts as another clue.
    **He’s an albino monk.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    Not all a older than thou people are cantankerous, may I note.
    I’m not bothered by the pair’s ages – they just are. Don’t worry, be happy.
    As my mother would say to us “I’m as old as my nose and by two big toes.” (Mother’s can get away with such accounting.

  7. pheeny says:

    My mother’s standard response was “I am as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth” 🙂

  8. snowy says:

    “Actually, I’m just a friar, so I can curse all I want… dammit!”

    [Now, where did I leave the keys to the whorlycopter?]

  9. andrea says:

    Timeless indeed and as for point #2 my Dad and his sister are 82 and 89 and they run rings round me. I wish I could half keep up with them.

  10. glasgow1975 says:

    “Where do all the years go?” said my mum once – “On your face” replied my cheeky cousin quick as a flash.
    She was actually younger than I am now, but it was such a funny line.

  11. Terry Rugh says:

    Does it matter how old Bryant and May are? I’ve read all the books to date and am very pleased there is another one out in the New Year. Looking forward to “The Bleeding Heart”. May the sleuths solve many more crimes.

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