Bryant & May Across The Pond
Readers are always asking me; what’s the difference between the two English-language editions of the Bryant & May books, ie. UK and US?
The first obvious change is in the covers. America’s artwork is actually created in the UK by Sarah Coleman at Inkymole, and is far more frivolous, although the next cover is taking a darker turn. The UK’s covers recall a complex combination of ideas, from old Agatha Christie novels to British Rail posters of the 1930s, and play to a more mixed audience.
The US editions happily keep the anglicisms of the text like ‘mobiles’ instead of ‘cellphones’, and all of Bryant’s peculiar colloquialisms, but small changes abound, like swapping ‘college’ for the more English ‘uni’. The English tend not to use ‘college’ because it suggests the old technical colleges that Mrs Tatcher turned into spurious universities in one of her get-rich-quick schemes.
However, there are larger, more subtle changes. Timelines are usually clarified in the US editions, and phrasing is surprisingly more formal. The English now tend to clip descriptive language, as the mid-Voctorians did. And for some reason I have yet to fathom, the US pagination of ‘The Bleeding Heart’ has reduced the number of chapters by one, so I may write a special chapter just to keep the books to the usual neat and tidy fifty.
Reading the two editions side by side, they feel different to me. Every editor has his or her style, and that style is often reflected in the book. People often think that editors and proofreaders do much of the writer’s job, and some do, checking research and detail in great detail. I had an editor who made me time out the entire plot of ‘Disturbia’ by carrying out the missions over one night as the hero did.
But by now with Bryant & May, my two editors kindly allow me to make my own odd way through the texts, only pointing out problems if I lose my way. Whereas, for my 2015 stand-alone thriller, I’m working from four separate sets of notes, from two agents and two editors. This is due to the complex timeline running through the novel.
Of course, I don’t ever really know who my readers are in different territories. Someone posted me this shot and I keep it on my desk, to remind me of who might be reading the books in New York. I think she’s had a busy day and I’m sending her to sleep!