Finding A Balance
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.