Those Weird Non-Bryant & May Novels

Bryant and May, Reading & Writing

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Another reader has asked about the strange relationship of my earlier novels to the Bryant & May series. Let me see if I can untangle this particular rat king and make some sense of it all.

In the beginning was Sergeant Ian Hargreave, who turned up in ‘Roofworld’, along with Butterworth, his sidekick, who suffered Diminished Spatial Awareness, based on a friend of mine. This character became Colin Bimsley in the series. Hargreave was later found to be dating Janice Longbright, and Bryant & May made their debuts in the next novel ‘Rune’, in which strange suicides occur in the city’s corridors of power. This is a modern take on Jacques Tourneur’s ‘Night Of The Demon’, with bar-codes being used by a sinister corporation in place of runes. It had traces of the supernatural in it, by only faintly.

By the time the third novel ‘Red Bride’ turned up, Raymond Land was in place, but as a doctor, and there was a new detective, John Sullivan, whom I dropped. (This is following a similar plan to ‘The Avengers’, which morphed its main characters in the early days). ‘Darkest Day’ became the second ‘proper’ Bryant & May book, which I subsequently rewrote as ‘Seventy Seven Clocks’. I couldn’t rewrite ‘Rune’ without removing the central concept of psychic interference.

After this all of my novels had different characters until a side-investigation in ‘Soho Black’. I needed a ready-made pair of coppers, and dropped in Bryant & May. It still feels to me as if they’re living in a separate section of the story, two books in one, and I wish I hadn’t used them there, although I like the book.

Two books later the Bryant & May series began in earnest, minus any supernatural elements. The wartime-set ‘Full Dark House’ had been rejected by my former publisher, so I had reworked it into the present day, and the series was born. New readers tend to start here, but the novel is an anomaly for its period setting, and therefore not really the right place to start.

It wasn’t until ‘Plastic’, many years later, that I decided to add a cameo of Arthur Bryant for old times’ sake, and because it naturally fitted the tale.

The Bryant & May series was not one at all – it was intended to be a one-off, but the characters proved popular enough for me to continue to six books, with a story arc and individual plots. Now it’s running to twelve books, and the end of the twelfth book is shaping up to be a pretty finite farewell.

Which means I have a problem – when do you leave a party? We all know Sean Connery should have made ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. The twelfth novel should probably be the last. Although the ending of ‘The Burning Man’ will leave a tear in your eye, I’ll probably have to leave a tiny window of escape for myself just in case it does really well, but right now I can’t see how to do that.

16 comments on “Those Weird Non-Bryant & May Novels”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    Of course you can. The pair can definitely end in the timeline and there are still endless cases in their past yet to be seen. Just because we know that the old reprobates go no further than a given story doesn’t mean we can’t read later about past cases. With respect, these aren’t thrillers – we don’t read them not knowing if John and Arthur will escape the dire trap as they assault the villainous compound (insert delay for gun porn). They’re old, at some point they may shuffle off. They interfere with nasty people, they might get blown up by an old lady with a biscuit bomb. Frankly what would they do if when confronting a fit young criminal he decides to beat them with the iron? That won’t change a story set before that point. 🙂

    At some point as books are reprinted or go to digital eye-whore-pad-thing versions then you can even make Butterworth Bimsley. In my head he is anyway. Mike Moorcock does it with a few extra Von Beks here and there. Neaten them up. Or not.

    Of course if you wish to put them out to grass then certainly do so. But I doubt that anyone will stamp their feet about a novel set anywhere from the 40s onward that subsequently came out. Far from it. Indeed I’m finding it hard to think of a series where such a thing would be more agreeable. It wouldn’t be the slightest clunky.

  2. Wayne says:

    Chris, I am crying already….As they say all good things come to an end. Maybe though it will let you do some storties from the early years of the unit, yes I know I have asked before. Broken record and all that.

    I am looking forward to the next book and the final one when available I just about have enough space on the B&M shelf….If twelve books is right then twelve it is. Long live B&M. We will all miss you.

  3. Stephen Groves says:

    Fuck it, make them time lords
    Problem solved !

    all best
    STALKY

  4. snowy says:

    Oh, chuck them off a waterfall, it worked for the other bloke.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    What permanently discontinue them? Ha.
    That’s just the uncertainty of not yet having a contract for #13 & #14, if you ask me. You think the pair will let you alone?
    You’re a Dickens fan, if I remember correctly.
    Doesn’t that remind you of a certain Christmas story? You know it, with Advent coming this weekend and all.
    How Fow…, err, the Dickens’ character put on his flannels, nightcap, kicked off his slippers, snuffed out the taper, pulled up the covers, and was just settling down for a long winter nap (oops, that’s the old American “Roofworld”).
    How suddenly he is awoken by a wavering light, a foul cat asleep on his feet, and an elderly gentleman wrapped as if for international shipping, with a low-pulled hat, and a pipe clutched tightly between his dentures. The first of three visitations, with the last probably being Janice Longbright in a rejected huff.
    You don’t have to buy us all a turkey, but just keep typing PCU tales coming. Pitching them out, didn’t work at all for Snowy’s other bloke.

  6. Reuben says:

    -tsk- Everyone knows heroes may seem to die, but they always come back to life again.

    Oh, no wait, I’m getting confused with Marvel superhero comics aren’t I…..

  7. Hudson Cattell says:

    Thanks for the bibliography! I like your idea of collecting the Bryant and May short stories into one volume. Perhaps you could add the Bryant cameo from “Plastic” and maybe with a little rewrite the side story from “Soho Black.”

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Hudson definitely has a good idea there. And we’ve always said that there would have been cases that they haven’t mentioned, especially between the time of Full Dark House and when the series proper picks up.

  9. admin says:

    Well of course you all spotted my cunning plan – there will definitely be a book of Bryant & May cases, probably containing a dozen of the investigations mentioned in the books. And of course you know how tricky I can be with the novels, having started the series with a fairly foolproof death!

  10. Keith Page says:

    I’m not sure that killing heroes off at the end of a series is such a great idea.Having watched the last ‘Poirot’ I think David Suchet’s body of work would have been better without it

  11. Jo W says:

    I just knewed if I kept quiet and wept silently into my I pad,that Admin would give in and provide us B&M fans with some more of those hinted at stories, dropped in here and there in the books. Thank you Admin, a hint of things to come to keep us saddos going!

  12. Helen Martin says:

    As a follow-up to my comment on the previous post – you can’t even believe Admin, who is apparently conspiring.

  13. glasgow1975 says:

    ha STALKY got there first – regeneration was what I thought too 🙂

  14. Mim says:

    I like Alan’s idea of going back over some of their older cases. So, Admin, I will look forward to that book!

  15. jan says:

    Give it up Fowler your not going to shove the old boys over the Reichenbach falls at the end of book 12 r u? And lets face it that didn’t work the last time somebody tried it!

  16. Helen Martin says:

    I’ve taken the plastic cover off Spanky and think that’s a pretty great picture – I’m also started the reading and once I’ve got to the straightened out timeline I’m going to really enjoy it, provided I don’t strangle this idiot character.

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