Quotes From My Non-Bryant & May Books No.8: ‘Soho Black’

Reading & Writing



This novel was my heartfelt response to working in a trivial industry (film media in London’s Soho) at a very specific time and place. My more perspicacious readers also understood that it was a study of mortality, and how one responds to the threat of life slowly ending. The director Stephen Daldry fell in love with the book but was unable to convince Working Title to run with it – they tended towards safe family movies – he made the wonderful ‘Billy Elliot’ instead. Like ‘Spanky’, which threw up the odd surprise of re-incarnating Queen Elizabeth I in its early pages, ‘Soho Black chucked in an out-of-the-blue song and dance number that Daldry said had attracted him to the novel in the first place.

The story concerned a failing producer trying to sign off one last deal, a terrible project that even he doesn’t believe in. Before he can do this he has a heart attack in a bar – and then things start to get really weird. I based the story on a real friend and thought he’d be horrified by the less-than-flattering portrait of a man in denial, but he loved it. Satire, as they say, ‘closes on Saturday night’ and so did this book -waaay too knowing for mass consumption. A pity, as there were some very funny conversations in it. And despite being non-canonical, Bryant & May do put in an appearance – sometimes it seems I just can’t keep them out. Oh, and somehow I ended up on the back cover with a black beard. Don’t ask me how. Here’s a description of the five leads in London at the end:

The rain had finally stopped. The five of them walked briskly over the wet tarmac of Berwick Street, masters of all they surveyed. As always, they wore black suits and tight black T-shirts beneath long achromatic raincoats. Dark glasses hid their eyes. Waldorf was describing a film he’d just seen. Lucas was trying to memorise the complex, bizarre instructions for his initiation. Midas watched his apprentice with grudging approval. Glory strode ahead of them, alone and aloof, her glorious golden body wrapped in a black riding cape lined with stars. They traversed their territory, surveying their kingdom, marking their inventories, planning their changes. And as they walked, they took the life of Soho with them.

3 comments on “Quotes From My Non-Bryant & May Books No.8: ‘Soho Black’”

  1. Keith Page says:

    This one gives some of the best atmospheric descriptions of the real Soho I’ve read

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    I thought of Soho Black when I read in the NYT on Sunday that all of the technical effects for Gravity were done in Soho and the staffs of the various companies involved simply had to run back and forth through Soho to tie it all together. Pretty cool. Still it was work done on a non-British film, but great Hollywood came to Britain because of the technical skills.
    Of course, Bryant and May turn up in non-canonical works. You have created two very rounded, appealing, and lively characters. And when you’re writing you’re using the part of the brain that synthesizes and creates, exactly the spot were B&M hang out.
    “Arthur, he’s writing, but not about us.”
    “Is he?”
    “I say, we keep an eye on his progress and when we see a likely opening we just step in.”
    “I’ll get my scarf and a pocketful of Maud’s elderberry chews.”

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    And elephants… can swim!

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