Meanwhile, At The Peculiar Crimes Unit…


I use real locations for most of my stories. It helps to get some sense of size and space when you have a lot of people moving around, so that the reader can visualise events more easily. Early Bryant & May readers will know that I used to have the PCU occupying the upper part of the tube station at Mornington Crescent. It’s a barely-noticed tube station of shiny maroon tiles, and was only open on weekdays. Most of the older stations had rooms above them. I’m told that for many years the tube station at Chalk Farm had a police arsenal above it and a gay bar below it. At South Kentish Town the platform was turned into a sauna when it closed down.

I moved the PCU to King’s Cross because it’s a rich and colourful area, and I housed them in another former pub. The Hoop & Grapes was an old school boozer that became a series of failed cocktail bars and has now had a fresh lick of paint to become part of a science institute, so the PCU has finally ended up in a building where it’s conceivable they might really be. The place is considerably larger than it appears (Keith Page drew an excellent cutaway drawing of it for ‘London’s Glory’). I envisage Raymond Land’s office to be on the other side of the picture above, overlooking the frequently rowdy Caledonian Road. The street itself has undergone a major makeover.

Gone are the dope shops and borderline brothels, in have come smart bars and restaurants, although they’re still quirkier than those in usual London streets. There’s George, the Greek cockney who runs the cobblers called ‘Achilles Heels’, the Italian-Albanian SuperMario, who runs ‘Gran Sasso’ and always sticks a candle in your breakfast if it’s your birthday, Wichet, who created a beautiful florists and the restaurant Supawan, which serves the best Thai food in the capital, then there’s Housmans, the left wing bookshop, the Spanish Quarter and the bar that recreates 18th century punches, the quirky little shop that repaints old shoes and handbags for you, the pie shop ‘Piebury Corner’, the Scottish Stores, formerly a strip joint, behind whose walls were hidden a complete Edwardian pub – now restored to its full glory – a mosque, also once a pub, a Vegan store and of course several more pubs.

It’s the perfect place to site a unit, cosmopolitan, streetwise and noisy but never really threatening. How it will be affected by Brexit is uncertain, but at the moment nearly everyone has staff shortages. It seems unlikely that young Britons will step in and do the job half as well as so many talented, energetic employees from around the world.

Of course, Arthur Bryant has a tendency to blow the unit up, and in case he does too much damage I have a back-up plan, although first he has to deal with his worst crisis – but that problem will all become clear when ‘The Lonely Hour’ comes out in March!

29 comments on “Meanwhile, At The Peculiar Crimes Unit…”

  1. David Ronaldson says:

    Speaking of rooms above Tube stations, I went to a party in the 90s in the space above Caledonian Road. The hosts were artists in Neon and they had a tiny living space in the corner of the area and a vast exhibition and working area in the rest of the floorspace. It was quite a venue!

  2. Jo W says:

    Ah the Ship and Shovel. We were drinking in there only last Friday, so handy for the station. 😉

  3. Helen Martin says:

    There’s an Italian restaurant on that left hand street, about a block further along where the sign says they’re open early morning but we and another potential customer had to knock on their kitchen door to attract their attention and they seemed quite startled to find that people took their sign seriously. The food was good.

  4. Brooke says:

    The Lonely Hour…,murder, arson, kidnapping, blackmail and bats, according to the Amazon blurb. In US can pre-order audio-book for March 2019 release but not book. US release for book? 12/2020?

  5. snowy says:

    I’m not an expert in matters of commerce, so what follows my be very wide of the mark!

    This question/concern pops up every time a new book comes out. And I always bite my tongue.

    But let’s indulge in a bit of wishful thinking, [on this one occasion].

    There is a demand, which could be satisfied with a very modest effort and could benefit all the involved parties.

    The assumptions

    a] Readers would be prepared to pre-order books, in return their book would be signed by the author, [might even carry a slight discount off the cover price, but don’t hold your breath! None of this is within my gift.]

    b] The author would be ammenable to signing all the ordered books in one one-off session.
    [This signing happens anyway it would just mean a few more strokes of the pen].

    c] A bookseller could be found that isn’t appalled by the idea of selling an extra 50+ books!
    [The one I have in mind, would carry no commercial risk, i) the books are presold, ii) if one or two sales were to fail they would slot into inventory anyway. And they already despatch books internationally.]

    There are bound to be complications that I have not thought of, [it is inevitable].

    In case there isn’t, here’s one just to make matters complex.

    The discount code would be published on the blog, those that tweet would be told about it but would have be brave enough to venture here to discover it. This hangs on the seller supporting codes!

    [Just checked the web shopfront already has an option for ‘Coupon codes’ so that isn’t the hurdle I thought it might be.]

    If only there was a medium in which potential purchasers could indicate if they would be interested in such a silly idea! [Not that non binding referenda are always the best idea.]

    [Having now emptied my brain, I will prise my nose out and go back to minding by own ‘bees-wax’.]

  6. admin says:

    Snowy, there’s already a system in place like this. Go to Goldsboro’s website and you’ll probably find me in pre-order for signed copies. I always sign them in advance.

  7. snowy says:

    *inserts twinkle into eye*

    You know that, I know that – I know you know and you know that I know – and now we both know we both know.

    But you could be just a teeny, tiny bit less discreet* about the fact that anybody who wishes to purchase a signed copy of the international award-winning author Christopher Fowler’s latest excellent book in the Bryant and May series, ‘The Lonely Hour’ and have it shipped directly to them anywhere in the world; on the UK release date, could do worse than to avail themselves of the service offered by the estimable folks in Cecil Court.**

    [*Don’t hide your light under a bushel, somebody might steal it while you are not looking.]

    [** Goldsboro, while a gem, is not that well known to those outside of Zone 3 and met with slack-jawed bewilderment by Zone 6, [but that might just be the normal expression of the locals.]

    US-ians searching for ‘Goldboro’ will really, really struggle to find it among all the accounts of the day the USAF accidentally bombed North Carolina with nuclear weapons!]

    [The punctuation in this post is even more awful than usual, but I don’t have time to fix it, [winding back in all these yards and yards of neck is going to take long enough as it is!]]

  8. Brooke says:

    Snowy, dear friend, Mr. Fowler does not wander into the outer zones. And yes, one can pre-order by following the links on this site to Amazon UK, Waterstones, etc. if you wish to pay 30-45% premium on shipping. Belated thank you for puzzle.

  9. Jo W says:

    the remark about people living in zone 6 was totally out of order and certainly not worthy of someone who I thought to be fairly intelligent.

  10. snowy says:

    Brooke, one of the things that I thought but didn’t include, [because I was trying to keep it short], was that individual orders would be aggregated together via a promo code, [the reason I became slightly fixated on ‘Coupon codes’], to create a bulk/meta order. And so the bookseller might be prepared to fufil the orders at a moderate discount, offsetting the cost of shipping, [taking the sting out a bit].

    [I would never be cheaper than waiting for the US release, but you would get it earlier and as a signed first ed.]

    [PS re. Xwd – thank you, very kind of you to say so.]

  11. snowy says:

    Dear Jo,

    If my off-hand remark based on the notion of inter-zonal snobbery, has upset you, I apologise without reservation.

    [Characteristics ascribed to others in fiction, including bad jokes, are more likely to be witheringly accurate descriptions of those exhibited by the author than anybody else.]



    [Denizen of a remote region so far down the transport ‘totem-pole’, we really do use a calendar rather than a timetable.]

    [No really, it literally is so poor, the correct answer to the question, “When’s the next bus to the Hospital?”, is always “Thursday”.]

  12. Ian Luck says:

    “Thursday” is also the answer to the question asked by a Second at a boxing match, when his boxer has caught a daisy one:
    SECOND: How many fingers am I holding up?
    BOXER (dazed): Thursday.

    That’s from the Police Squad! episode ‘Ring Of Fear’ (narrated as ‘A Dangerous Assignment’).

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Would this meta shipment include Canada? If not, I’ll head off to my usual pre-order source. It does seem like a logical solution, though. I always wince when the bottom line comes up.

  14. Ken Mann says:

    Regarding London-centric thinking I have a friend who when asked how far Blackpool was from London replied “put it this way, its nearest tube station is Stanmore”.

  15. snowy says:

    H, this hypothetical horse hasn’t moved much since it put its head through the starting tape and shot 8′ in the air. [Flogging it doesn’t seem to have much effect beyond making my arm ache.]

    The standard rate inc. P&P [without any promotion] for US/CA is £23.99, how does that compare with your usual?

  16. Brooke says:

    The pre-order book price is 17 pounds(~21 USD) –math doesn’t work.

  17. snowy says:

    Hi, B Assuming that’s the Amazon/B&N listed price for the US Hardback?

    If we take $21 as money you’d spend anyway.

    For the price of a Tall Latte, ~$3 [something that would only last you 15 mins], you could get a signed first edition months before anybody else.

  18. Jo W says:

    Thank you for that apology,nicely done. As it’s Thursday,I hope you managed to catch the bus to the hospital.!!!! 🙂 😉

  19. Helen Martin says:

    Okay, Snowy. Yes, I was using and the total, including import fee deposit of 85 p, comes to 24.82. (Let’s see 9×8 is… and 6×6 is… and 4 decimal places) um CD$41.95. There’s a reason I don’t look at the conversion.
    If I used I wonder if… no, they would use the US release date, which is probably actually a “North American” date and then you’d get the US-ian version without any “deep English”.
    (By the way, if anyone thinks that regional accents are disappearing in Britain you have only to watch “East Coast Trains” to hear everything from London to Edinburgh and very different they are.)
    Since I want the British version I’ll have to pay the +40 I guess. Unless someone works out the kinks in the meta order. I would imagine there would have to be an initial break bulk inNice that has a Christopher Fowler page (which they stick a few other people in to keep you from obsessing on one writer, I suppose).
    I’m assuming there would be an initial break bulk in -say- Winnipeg or Denver with smaller packages headed to other regions for p/u or were you envisaging a total break down and individual orders moving from that initial landing point?

  20. Denise says:

    My goodness what is all this about? I am pre- ordering mine from Amazon UK. And I don’t care how much it weighs or how much it will all cost . It’s my treat to myself!

  21. snowy says:

    In this hypothetical world, [which doesn’t exist outside of my head].

    The ‘pitch’ to the bookseller could not be simpler!

    … “Do you want to sell more books?, [and take sales off Amazon?]”

    If they agree in principle, that takes care of the 5 Ws, just leaving us with the question of ‘How’.

    The sellers margin on a hardback is quite generous, but there is no need to get bogged down in the details since it submits to logic.

    Sell N extra books at ~60% usual profit, pre-ordered as part of a limited scale promo.

    Sell 0 extra books at 100% profit, as all the customers wander off elsewhere.

    [Based on Wholesale Paper Rate, a discount of £3, would leave nobody embarrased and put it right on the sweet spot. In my humble opinion and based wholly on ill informed speculation. I anticipate that others may not agree.]

    [Logistics of delivery need not trouble us, the usual means are more than adequate and included in the calculation at full rate.]

  22. snowy says:

    Jo, to save you suffering further annoyance at people making disparaging comments about the higher numbered zones, I suggest you steer completely clear of any of Ben Aaronvitch’s ‘Rivers of London’ series.

    The lead character, Peter Grant not satisfied with ‘sticking the knife in’ to the ‘suburbs’ goes for the full canteen of cutlery and doesn’t leave off until he has booted the entire cruet up somewhere really quite eye-watering.

    Apart from that it’s, Maverick detectives, in a special unit, investigating strange goings on in London.

    [Dunno’ where he got that idea?]

  23. admin says:

    Ken, surely if your friend was in Liverpool the nearest tube station would be Ibrox or Cessnock in Glasgow.

    (Just saying, as a Zone Oner)

  24. Ken Mann says:

    He was a Kilburn resident pondering the immense distance to Lancashire. Londoners have a habit of treating anywhere on the tube as easy to get to and anywhere outside as an immense distance, even if the tube ride takes 90 minutes and the train ride takes 20…I think they might make an exception for Brighton which is somehow declared an honorary tube station.

  25. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy – so I suppose it’s up to us to talk to book stores and try to create interest? I don’t think the start can come from your side of the water. It should actually be a straight forward thing, though.
    What is really quite annoying is the fact that at some point there is a saving because if I wait till the North American edition comes out it won’t cost me $41 so they’re probably saving with meta shipments (unless the NA books are printed over here – or in Shanghai or whatever.) I’ve been doing what Denise does, probably for the same reasons, and I’ll probably end up doing it again.

  26. snowy says:

    H, I’ve been very guarded in the way I have discussed this to strenously avoid giving the impression of bossing people about. [Not that they would pay any attention to me anyway!]

    Everything needed to turn this fancy into reality already exists, “from soup to nuts”! [apart from the nod from a 50-something year old man with the initials DAG, who is celebrating his birthday this very month.]

    My last act, [stop cheering at the back], in this matter will be to scribble a proposition to guage how much demand there is.


    If you could get a signed UK first edition of ‘The Lonely Hour’ in March 2019 at the following price, would you be tempted to switch your order away from your usual supplier?

    UK £13.99 + £4.05 P&P = £18.04
    EU £13.99 + £6.30 P&P = £20.29
    US/CAN/AUS £13.99 + £7.00 P&P = £20.99


    Amazon UK have dropped their price to £13.88, fill yer boots

    [I’m going back to making seedling pots out of newspaper.]

  27. Wayne Mook says:

    Be from beyond the zones I thought Ken was referring to a shortened version of Stan Mortensen one of the Blackpool heroes of the ’53 Matthews final.

    Moorfields in Liverpool is an underground station would that count?


  28. Helen Martin says:

    Alright, Snowy, put me on your list.

  29. John Griffin says:

    Full Dark House a snip at Goldsboro…. £130.
    Was thinking of upgrading my tatty copy……………

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