Bryant & May Return In A Month
ARTHUR BRYANT: ‘These hippies are selfish and irresponsible. I’ll tell you what made our nation the bastion of patrician morality it is today; the ability to be profoundly miserable. It’s one of our greatest strengths, to be ranked beside shutting the boozers at ten thirty and regarding the waterproof mackintosh as an acceptable item of clothing.’ – From ‘Hall Of Mirrors’
I told you they would be back. The 16th volume featuring my senior detectives, ‘Hall Of Mirrors’, is out in the UK on March 22, while the paperback version of ‘Wild Chamber’ is out on March 8. I’m always seeking to ring the changes in the formula – a little, not too much – and have listened to requests to write the occasional flashback to the past, so this one is, according to Bryant’s unreliable memoirs, set in swinging London. Or at least, part of it is, and part is set in a grand country house called Tavistock Hall.
Those readers waiting to discover what happened to the body found in the basement of the Peculiar Crimes Unit will have to wait a little longer, because that story will be told in ‘Bryant & May: England’s Finest’. I had, of course, thought this timeline through very carefully and knew where it needed to be placed.
The interesting thing about writing flashback cases is not being able to use many of the present-day cast, although there are a couple of surprise appearances in this one. I’ve taken a lighter tone than usual, so that the story is closer to that of, say, ‘The Memory Of Blood’. I’ve done this because B&M are young, upbeat and energetic in the book, but also because I’m going to write a pair of novels which will take them to much darker places than usual a bit later on. (I’m writing the first one now).
Although ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ is more mischievous than usual, comedy still requires a moral viewpoint. Humor and tragedy go together very well in crime novels, although comedy will get you delisted from most award shortlists. However, I have to follow a set of rules, one of which is that the serious parts of my plot must be taken seriously, and the comedy needs to be born of character. When I’m being serious, I’m deadly serious.
It helps that my detectives are facing mortality, as it grants me license to use graveyard humor. I’m very careful to respect victims and honor them over villains.
Even when I’m being funny there is a serious intent underpinning the humor. The straight version of the plot is drafted first, and the humor grows later in the writing process. I never regard the mysteries as ‘cozies’ because they reflect the way we learn to deal with life, even in extreme situations, and you’ll always find a strong underpinning of reality in the books. The misconception I most have to debunk is the idea that I’m Ben Aaronovitch. Who, BTW, is a lovely chap.
So, enjoy ‘Hall of Mirrors’, because after that we’ll be taking a dive into some of London’s darkest histories…