Those Weird Non-Bryant & May Novels
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.