Bryant & May: In For The Long Run Part 3

Bryant and May

As any series extends, its effects diminish. We come to expect certain things from characters, we recognise the writer’s stylistic tics, we feel we can see where the plot is going, we grow tired and want something new.

But there are many exceptions, from Batman to Doctor Who, because they’ve ceased to be a series and become just stories with a continuous character. This is ideal for a crime series, because the emphasis is on the mystery, not just the person. I could not put a number on how many crime novels I’ve read; the format is infinitely adaptable. So that’s my job at this stage – is to keep things fresh.

And it’s why, in the last book, ‘The Lonely Hour’, I subverted expectations by removing much of the humour and streamlined the plot to hinge around a single event seen from several perspectives. This made it much harder to construct, but paid off in terms on emotional investment.

When you have a small moment in a story that becomes a key component, you’d better have the details right. When Akaky invests so much attention in his threadbare clothes and pays for the finest coat in St Petersburg (albeit with a cat-fur collar) you know that tragedy will follow in Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat’, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

The trouble is that I generally have so many topics pinballing about in my head that settling on one is a struggle. When I was a child I drew endless volumes of comics that had absurdly complex, epic storylines. The first one, written aged eleven, was set in Cadiz, a place I had only barely heard of in a country I had never visited.

Many readers like simple emotional tales and many crime novels play to their tastes. Some are lazily written in first person present tense and telegraph their storylines beat by beat as they move toward a get-out-of-jail-free ending.

And there are a few writers who defy all attempts to pigeonhole them and create marvels. At the moment I have a list of about ten names, writers of the uncategorisable. Few are as successful as they should be.

For my next mystery novel I can’t attempt the same trick of the last one, so it will be more in the style of ‘The Burning Man’ – a large-scale romp, this time based on the theme of fake news. And so I hope the series continues with fresh ideas. There are two new characters, new problems and dramas to deal with. Of course, if I reach a point where readers suggest it’s time to quit I’ll do so. Luckily, with a psycho in the White House and a delusional racist in Downing Street there’ll be plenty of material to feed from…

23 comments on “Bryant & May: In For The Long Run Part 3”

  1. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Are the ten names to be found in The Book of Forgotten Authors?

  2. SteveB says:

    Do you think Boris is racist? I dont have that impression, he obviously wrote some racist things, but I have the impression that comes of thoughtless writing for effect, rather than anything deep seated.
    Otoh Priti ‚hangemandflogem’ Patel would probably be racist if she could be!
    Did you ever read Dominic Cummings‘s blog? I really recommend it even if you hate Brexit etc. The latest one is about how the environment you are in affects the thoughts you can think. How the 19th century environment of the UK government disables new ways of thinking and interacting. I‘ve also been trying out this Anki thing, to improve my vocab in a couple of languages, we‘ll see!
    I liked Lonely Hour, I also liked White Corridor which was also quite focussed. I prefer that personally to the larger scale stuff.

  3. Wild Edric says:

    I have to say in all honestly that ‘The Lonely Hour’ is the first of the series I’ve struggled with.

    I’m not being gripped as much as I am with others and even left it halfway so I could re-approach it in case it was me or the frame of mind I was in..

    I’ve now got about two-thirds through and it’s not getting any easier. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cut above others in the genre (if indeed it has a genre – B&M are a genre in themselves) but for the first time I’m noticing Bryant is the star of the show rather than one half of a whole. Too much yin not enough yang. It’s like Mr Fowler is fed up with May.

    Anyway, I do apologise for the negativity. As always I’m loving the London tidbits, all the Bryant-isms and the hostility between Renfield and Bimsley and I will continue on to the end and hope it’s ‘not you it’s me!’

  4. Brooke says:

    Before he died, Camilleri “removed” Montalbano. Rankin is clearly tired of ill, fading Rebus. Ken Bruen is killing Jack Taylor in slow, painful ways. And you’re plotting the PCU’s demise. I despair.

  5. Jan says:

    You know in retrospect “White Corridor” is in many ways my favourite novel of your series.

    Unexpectedly in a sense cos there was no big London backdrop none of the usual trappings + background But it didn’t half work well.

    I thought the gardening book was very clever the only reason I twigged onto it was I had an embarrassing confrontation with the driver( who if course turned out to be the passenger!) of a left hand drive car! Dunno if I ever told you that story. Observational skills score nil that day for me.

    Maybe the set up of “White corridor” is something worth repeating you know Chris especially as at some point the old guys health must deteriorate. I sent u an e mail after my recent day in the theatre in my minor understudy role. The two things might tie up in a way the ideas I put forward in the e mail and the “White Corridor” thing. Actually removing the old guys from the centre of the action in some way. – + a guest appearance for Pa Bimsley. Would b good.

  6. admin says:

    I do believe that Boris is racist and homophobic. By refusing to temper his language about anyone different he exposes his own narrowness of thought. ‘Bumboys’, ‘picaninnies’ and ‘letterboxes’ are not insults that can be dismissed with ‘Oh, that Boris, what a laugh.’ Priti Patel is a monster in any creed or colour.
    For the other points, see today’s column.

  7. Roger says:

    I agree that Johnson (why “Boris”? It humanises him.) is racist and homophobic – or would like people to think him so, which may be more contemptible – but there are complexities to his remarks about ‘picaninnies’ and ‘letterboxes’ at least: ‘picaninnies’ is a depiction of what Johnson saw as Tony Blair’s patronising attitude to Africans and ‘letterboxes’ was used in a piece justifying people dressing as they please, even if they do look like letterboxes as a result. It is characteristic of Johnson that he uses prejudicial language to extol toleration.

  8. John Howard says:

    I’m with Brooke. I can’t see the readers getting fed up. The only worry the readers have is that you might get fed up. Or, heaven forfend, retire.

  9. SteveB says:

    @Chris I definitely didnt mean to say those things should be dismissed with a laugh. I really want to be 100% clear on that. I ‚only’ meant to say it‘s not my impression that they reflect some internal feeling of his against gay people or brown people or whatever. Prejudices are externalisations onto other people of internal problems, and I don‘t think Boris has those kind of problems.
    Anyway…
    @Brooke
    The last couple of Rebus books have been a bit weak and formulaic, haven‘t they (quite apart from Rebus‘s poor physical nick). Don‘t know if that means Rankin is tired of the character, or running out of steam.

  10. Liz Thompson says:

    I really enjoyed and was gripped by The Lonely Hour. One of the strengths of your books is the range and depth of them. I love humour in detail and conversation, but I’m more than happy to read “serious” approaches to the genre.
    Boris is definitely racist and a threat to any future and harmony this country can have .

  11. SteveB says:

    Just a bit more on Boris
    Admin writes ‚narrowness of thought‘
    Yes maybe, I think ‚laziness of thought‘ might be nearer, I think he‘s a clever chap who doesn‘t think too much, attention seeking and needy. Not the best attributes for a PM.

  12. Jan says:

    Maybe we are all missing the point a bit here with Boris J. Dunno whether this man is rascist or homophobic but what he IS -and this might have Mr. F. Hooting with derision. Boris is a “feelgood” politician. I don’t reckon we have had too many feelgood politicians people who actually entertain or interest the public. Tony Blair had the gift for a while (+ look how that ended) and although I was only a kid back then Harold Wilson had the skill to make people believe life was on the up that their lives were being enhanced. Well me dad said he did! And that’s about it for Britain.

    The ultimate feelgood politician seems to have been Ronald Reagan who turned into some sort of grandfather of the nation. A figure folk accepted. Maybe we have so few politicians of this sort in the UK cos of Queenie she nicked the job right off of them being the sweetheart, the mum and then grandmother of the nation.

    I probably have burbled on about this before…… ages and ages ago when I still lived in London + worked in central London I was ambling up N on Charing X road one summer’s evening when I became aware of some sort of an excited kerfuffle on the opposite side of the road. It wasn’t grief or fighting. In fact it was a load of pedestrians and a fair few black cabbies shouting at some big bear of a bloke on a pedal cycle travelling North along the carriageway. Yes it was our new p.m. Now what struck me was the genuine ripple of good feeling towards the man. Something almost unique in my experience when the public are faced with a politician. This was in Boris’ pre-mayoral days. Probably all this came on the back of his been on the telly (but I never saw much telly back then I must admit. Didn’t strike me in the moment you see) Boris was on his tod and seemed amused by the whole situation. He wasn’t clowning about but he took it in good part. It was an interesting thing to witness.

  13. Peter Tromans says:

    We lemmings feel great running in the fresh air down towards the … aaagh!

  14. snowy says:

    To take down a creature as slimy and thick-skinned as Mr Toad, demands the weapons are sharp and the blows accurate. [Ie. isn’t going to be furthered by people repeating half-truths they found on Twitter.]

    It is quite difficult to research the full text of the original columns as they are pay-walled, [this might explain why so much of that, that has been written is just band-wagonning].

    ‘Letterboxes’, this comes from a 2018 article whose chief ‘thrust’ is that Denmark is wrong to ban face veils even though he thinks the whole idea of religious dress is silly. This was blown up into a huge media storm by the far-left, [who are just as culpable of sowing division and creating disharmony as the far-right.] The media seized on the outrage because it was an easy way to fill pages/airtime. His supporters and his opponents both read what they wanted to read in the column, oddly everybody was happy.

    But it’s not enough to hang him.

    ‘Picaninnies’, gosh, what an antique word. [Not in and of itself offensive, Portuguese root – ‘small child’, used in several creoles as such.] It had fallen out of use in British English decades earlier and had been consigned to the bin, until Toady dragged it back into the limelight. As Roger points out it comes from a column deriding another polititian whose belief in his own publicity had blossomed in to a full blown ‘Messiah complex’.

    But if monumental stupidity was any reason to bar someone from political office then this article would be enough for most.

    The ‘P’ word appears in the opening paragraph in an unacknowledged quote. For a man who has pretentions to being a writer/journalist, you might have thought things like checking sources would be second nature. But apparently not, if he had he might have realised that lifting a section directly from Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ was not the wisest idea.

    It just goes to prove a private education, no matter how much carefully ‘sheltered’ money you spend on it doesn’t make you any brighter.

    But it’s not enough to hang him.

    ‘Bumboys’, I must confess I laughed initially, well it’s just such a pathetically juvenile word. I had to track down the original!

    It comes from a very old article about the forced resignation of a Labour MP over financial wrong-doings. And having read the full context it contains a number of outragous slurs against gay men, all baseless.

    viz: Who the REDACTED was wearing a tank-top and drinking Pils in 1998?

    A little textural analysis of the reference points used suggests the little sausage was frightened at Oxford in the 80s, when everything went a bit ‘Sebastian Flyte’.

    He was probably left still reeling from his discovery of such ‘abnormal’ sexual conduct when he and his mate Dave went off to stick their winkies into dead pig’s heads, [nothing strange it that apparently? No definately not! *rolls eyes*]

    It might have hung him then, but the time has passed.

    [Some friends have mine have a variety of very colourful descriptions of what Ms Patel is, the few that are translatable in to English, are… absolutely not repeatable in mixed company.

    If she hadn’t wandered into politics, I suspect she would still be in Westminster, running a members-only dungeon.]

  15. Roger says:

    Snowy: No pay-walls.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3571742/If-Blairs-so-good-at-running-the-Congo-let-him-stay-there.html

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/05/denmark-has-got-wrong-yes-burka-oppressive-ridiculous-still/

    All the same, Johnson has a remarkable ability to practise duplicity, be incompetent, steal other peoples’ ideas, tell lies, and stitch people up and come out of it unscathed – “It’s just Boris being Boris.”

  16. Jan says:

    Umm if Ms Patel HAD been running such an establishment…….

    Look there’s a lot of passing judgement here.

    Let’s just stow it here for a moment. (Stow it not SNOW it) sorry Snowy.

    I’m taking no sides here Boris J IS an interesting figure because he’s so out of the political norm
    No wonder the Tory party elected him in, they r playing the long game.

    They don’t want the public turning away here. Shrewdly they have seen this populist as their best chance of survival. Not daft.

    However much you dislike it real British people of all creeds, body types and orientations – people you may feel were were bamboozled- but they the GR8 British public voted out of the common market. Probably because they saw it developing into so much more than the entity we joined.

    I’m not going to put anyone in the wrong or the right. This is where we are. Flaws aside this Boris might get Brexit done. The will of the people – this is the democratically expressed will of the people if he can get it done can be his mistakes be forgiven? If indeed he was a scoundrel in the first place.

  17. snowy says:

    Thanks Roger, I obviously wasn’t looking in the right place, [D double minus for me; must try harder!]

    [OK! First one works, the second is still blocked to me.]

    Just to complete the set and allow people make up their own minds, the column that used the word ‘bumboys’ can be viewed half way down the page below.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/boris-johnson-record-sexist-homophobic-and-racist-comments-bumboys-piccaninnies-2019-6?r=US&IR=T

  18. Peter Tromans says:

    I very much want to put those in the wrong where they deserve to be. Why should I accept my country being run by individuals who lie purely for their own advantage?

  19. Helen Martin says:

    People who are upset at Brexit should check as to whether or not they voted at the time and those who are upset at Boris (we call him that because there are quite a lot of Johnsons (of various spellings) and not so many British Borises to confuse him with (with whom to…?) will just have to wait for election outcomes.
    What is Boris wanting to be? Will PM satisfy him so that he can retreat to somewhere pleasant to write his memoirs? Can enough people vote against the Tories in his riding so that he will lose his own seat? (Oh, is that “his constituency”? We call them ridings.) There are a number of interesting questions lurking around out there.
    In the meantime, so what do we hear about this “Oranges and Lemons” book?

  20. Jan says:

    Snowy I had today (Tuesday ) pencilled in to visit the Sixpenny
    Handle circle. Its piddling down though. Today ain’t going to be the day.

    Good for the bowling green though. I might just watch Glorious Goodwoood on telly instead make a few unwise investments and b grateful I am not actually there getting wet through.

    Most beautiful racecourse in the UK I reckon Goodwood not today though but.

  21. Glasgow1975 says:

    The Rebus thing is true. Rankin tried to retire Rebus off disgracefully and replace him with a by the book penpusher. Of course nobody was interested in Mr Dull and so Rebus was dragged back reluctantly to carry on until his liver packs in. I think readers would genuinely have been happy with Rebus retiring and the continuing books just having Siobhan as the focus but now he’s stuck with dreary Malcolm, sidelined Siobhan and half dead civilian Rebus limping along together . . .

  22. snowy says:

    G, I agree Shiv was great, Rebus could have gone off to do whatever passes for Bee-keeping in the Upperlands* and just appeared in cameos.

    J, no rush, no point getting wet.

    [* I don’t know how far north honey bees go, looked it up, no clearer. Discovered that there is a ‘Buckfast Bee’, sadly it’s just an ordinary bee and doesn’t get drunk on nectar and run about sticking the heid oan wasps.]

  23. eggsy says:

    Peter Tromans – I salute your efforts, but – “why should I accept my country being run by individuals who lie purely for their own advantage” – good luck with finding an alternative.

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