Finding A Balance

The Arts


Some of my, ahem, more mature readers might recall that I began writing in places of extreme darkness. I’ve never worked out which of my short stories is the bleakest because a good dozen would tie for first place. Over the coming weeks I may try to reproduce a couple of them here in a doomed effort to get you to download some collections (Cheap! Cheap I tell you!) My greatest disappointment is that nobody I know has ever read ‘Red Gloves’ but let’s not go there *mutters something vile about small press under breath*. Instead let’s focus on the good.

And the good news is that I’m going back to bleak for a while. The next Bryant & May is a jolly romp through the late 1960s and gave me a chance to give Agatha Christie a bit of a biffing. But after that I’m heading off into Stygian gloom and planning to take you with me.

The Bryant & May novel that follows ‘Hall of Mirrors’ will be ‘The Lonely Hour’, and will do the unthinkable. And it’ll be dark, from its gruesome opening murder to its upsetting conclusion. You have been warned! Of course although I’ll finish it in four months’ time it won’t be out until 2019, by which time we’ll probably all be dead or too broke to buy books.

But it’s important to balance the light with the dark. I’m getting a bit bored with dystopian noir TV thrillers because few lives are all darkness. I still greatly admire Gary Oldman’s astonishing ‘Nil By Mouth’ because I grew up near him in roughly the same time frame, and he got something right about the grimmer end of working class life; he shows you the reasons for going on. The family he depicts suffer horrendously yet find amusement in small things.

In the same way, the prosecutor Marcia Clark switched to writing crime thrillers after the disastrous OJ trial and showed us the reason why her legal heroine stays in her job; she really likes it. Adam Kay showed us the rewards junior doctors discover in ‘This Is Going To Hurt’, so there should always be a mix of horror and happiness. So many books and films play out ridiculously grim premises with a straight face when you need someone to see the absurd side. But humour is a risky undertaking and hard to get right tonally.

There will still be plenty of humour in the Bryant & May books, but after the madcap antics of ‘Hall of Mirrors’ it’s time for some gravity. The picture at the top is William Hogarth’s delightful ‘The Weighing Station’, which takes humanity from Absolute Gravity to Absolute Levity.

13 comments on “Finding A Balance”

  1. davem says:

    Your short stories are my favourites out of all your writing … including ‘Red Gloves’ which I purchased as soon as it was released.

  2. Stephen Morris says:

    I also have The Red Gloves collection which has some great stories.Upsetting conclusion has me thinking all kinds of things already.

  3. Denise Treadwell says:

    I will look for it, but your short stories haven’t been available here, .some are only available on Kindle. I like a real book in my hands, if it falls off the bed it is still intact! Doesn’t need batteries.
    In Bryant and May, you don’t know how much I have laughed reading the prolog describing the state of the unit. Particularly Crippon’s activities as I have two large cats.I have woken my entire family with my laughter.

  4. Denise Treadwell says:

    Oh please give me a break. Too poor or dead! You have no optimism!

  5. Ian Luck says:

    Optimism is overrated – I’m a pessimist, and, as such, am never disappointed. Yes, the glass is half full – of the bloke next to you at the bars’ vomit.

  6. Denise Treadwell says:

    Talking to Christopher, not you . You can vomit where you like! But not on my shoes.

  7. Ian Luck says:

    I’m not vomiting – it’s the bloke next to me. I would never be so base.

  8. Jay Mackie says:

    I pre ordered a signed copy of Red Gloves and think it is a fine collection with some real gems Chris. I would be so sad if you completely ceased any further collections of short stories in the future Chris-and I’m betting a lot of other loyal, longstanding fans feel the same!

  9. Chris Lancaster says:

    I also have Red Gloves, and thought it one of your best collections. Although my favourite short story ever is probably Last Call For Passenger Paul. Since reading that when first published, I’ve always been very careful when on a plane to check that it’s heading in the right direction …

  10. Matt says:

    I am a Red Gloves owner as well, however I have binned the red slip case my signed copy arrived in as it grew an unhealthy looking mould on the surface….

    I enjoy the short stories and have every collection in book form, I think I also downloaded the eBook only edition you published last year but I can’t find it on my Kindle for some reason.

    Are we allowed to guess what is going to upset us in ‘The lonely Hour’? Are you going to bump off a member of the team or maybe even one of the lead detectives?

    Looking forward to the next B&M and already have it on order ready to ship on publication, good old Amazon guarantee the lowest price on pre-orders so why wait.

  11. Adam says:

    I’m also a big fan of Red Gloves. I think my overall favourite short story is ‘cages’. Very unsettling, and stayed with me for a long time after reading.

  12. Denise Treadwell says:

    I like the picture. Hogarth was interesting, I love how you interweave the old London, with new, with history .l realize you dislike that someone can love someone ‘s writing. I don’t care, I say it anyway.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    When told by my son that his mother had bought the singer’s latest album, Forbes told Ian that he’d wondered who it was that had bought it. Nice to know who it was. I’m sure the people here are not the only ones who bought Red Gloves, although I didn’t. I have Old Devil Moon and, of course, the rail collection in which you have the last story. It was too bad about Red Gloves, but I wonder if there isn’t some way to recoup that. Could the republishing rights be purchased and an advertising campaign drum up the interest that didn’t materialise the first time round? It obviously sticks in your craw.

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