Bryant & May And…What?


‘I see your lips moving but only nonsense comes out,’ said Bryant. ‘You might as well be French.’

Update: In three weeks’ time ‘Bryant & May: England’s Finest’ comes out in the UK featuring 12 new missing cases from the files of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and exploring the mysteries of the Covent Garden diva and the seventh reindeer, a crime in the Post Office Tower in which one of the suspects is Bruce Forsyth, the ordinary London street corner where strange accidents keep occurring, the consul’s son discovered buried in the unit’s basement, the corpse pulled from a swamp of Chinese dinners, the impossible death that’s the fault of a forgotten London legend, the case of the plunging postman and an act of terrorism in Piccadilly Circus. The book comes complete with a history of the PCU and is introduced by Raymond Land.

But I’m always working around eighteen months to two years ahead, so since this I locked myself away in Barcelona for the summer to write the nineteenth Bryant & May book, ‘Oranges & Lemons’, which I’ve now delivered.

My agents and editors have read it and are very happy indeed, so we’re zooming forward into the edit process and covers have already been roughed. This is the biggest Bryant & May novel to date, and I’m not sure how much bigger the stories can get after this. Maybe I’ll go unplugged and scale it down to a more human story. The 2021 book has not yet been commissioned, but if it happens it will be the 20th volume. I don’t have a subject yet so any suggestions you have are welcome.

Rather than take a break I’ve gone straight into a non-B&M novel, a mystery thriller about two British families in France. I’m also working on a massive (and at the moment highly problematic) story/ legend about the founding of London, but this will take a few years to fulfil its natural evolution.

Meanwhile – feel free to post your personally preferred London subjects and settings for B&M 20. All ideas considered, no matter how barmy!

39 comments on “Bryant & May And…What?”

  1. Ian Luck says:

    How about a crime wave that only hits the halls of the London Livery Companies, with odd objects, some of no apparent value, being stolen from each, for some monstrous purpose. I even have a title: ‘Bryant And May – At Sixes And Sevens’

  2. Ian Horrocks says:

    I would like to think that at some point in their history, Bryant and May have crossed paths with Royalty, forgive me if you’ve already done it in a short story as I havent read them all

  3. Linda Evans says:

    Have been visiting a sick friend in Blackheath regularly recently. It’s not an area I know but the village and the heath are lovely places. It’s strange to think of all the plague victims buried there. The area had such an interesting history and strikes me as an ideal setting for a creepy murder mystery. Have yet to come up with an actual idea yet..,

  4. Liz Thompson says:

    What about the Tower of London ravens visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in
    London in December? And bringing in Christmas decorations with malevolent implications?

  5. Nick says:

    I would love to see any author (but particularly your good self) tackle a novel with settings in the east London / Essex area. Having lived for just shy of half a century in the hinterland around Romford, I have never seen any fiction worth reading using this area. We’re still inside London (borough of Havering), and there’s considerable history going back to Saxon times (Harold Wood was the site of the King’s hunting grounds prior to the Normans turning up). Lots going on with major regeneration, Thames corridor expansion, Crossrail, etc.

    Additionally, my father, who spent his early years in Mile End made reference to an edifice bearing our family surname – it was used as an asylum, but was referred to as Kirby’s Castle and was located in the Bethnal Green area. I don’t think there’s actually any direct link to our family, but it would be intriguing to discover some background (admittedly, for me, personally – can’t speak for anyone else!).

  6. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    How about the abandoned London public baths and swimming pools? I always find them rather spooky.
    ( I know you’ve used a lido, but that is outside, still in use, and somehow less worrying.)

  7. Jan says:

    There’s quite a bit to Blackheath in addition to the above contribution by Linda its a really interesting place. Back in 2003-4-5 bits of roadway disappeared into the heath sinkhole style there’s caverns beneath it if I remember correctly. (IF) (Big if memory going) Certainly Caverns thought to have been partially carved out in Neolithic times now permanently closed – on elf + safety grounds- beneath Greenwich park.

    There’s a very interesting, though doubtless now out of print book, by a Beyrl Somebody or other who believed that somewhere along the line there had been confusion between the City of London and Greenwich and that Greenwich was the real ancient City the Romans developed and the epicentre of London and the south east.

    Sounds a bit mad but she did have some really interesting ideas.

    Interesting place certainly Greenwich we’ve discussed the Meridian b4 I think Chris this idea essentially of Celtic origin about the very centre of place being powerful. That idea never seemed to have really fully gone away when the major seafaring nations started to argue over where to place the site of the Meridian. Of course they were valid commercial reasons why France, ourselves and the Danish wanted the site of the Meridian to be on their soil
    Seems more to it at some level though …..

    I always think of the site of North Americas prime Meridian being on that line in Washington D.C. where all those thousands and thousands gathered to watch Mr Obama being inaugurated as President. (Nearly everyone seeming to be grinning Eric Morecombe style into the tv cameras. Of course in Mr Trumps mind even more folk gathered there when he became president.)

    Oh Snowy I have still not forgotten about that ruddy Sixpenny Handley circle as my pics are so crappy and show nowt am trying to get a couple of aerial shots from Dorset Archaeology sent to me and I will hopefully forward to you via Mr F.

  8. Colin says:

    How about this… The gang are all being chased and run into a mysterious warehouse. The mob chasing them are nearly upon them so drastic action is needed. The run into a strange room that turns out to be a time machine!
    They travel back in time to solve six famous unsolved crimes, then they can return to the present day!
    Would love to see Bryant in Victorian London!

  9. SteveB says:

    @Colin interesting idea

  10. Brooke says:

    @Colin…have you read Before the Coffee Gets Cold…time machine in certain seat in a cafe…but you have to get out before coffee…

  11. Colin says:

    Hi Brooke, no I haven’t read that one. Have just looked it up and it sounds really interesting, have added to the list. Thank you for the recommendation!

  12. Roger says:

    Another damned thick book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Fowler?

  13. snowy says:

    Oh no it’s a Linkosaurus Rex! Run for the Hills!

    Nick I’ve scraped a few scrappy bits out of one of my bookmarked sources, [to read the whole entry click my name.]

    South of Green Street – Kirby’s Castle had wealthy occupants throughout the 17th century. From 1726 the house, by then misleadingly called the Blind Beggar’s House, was a private lunatic asylum. It was extended and by 1777 was called the White House. In 1685 the owner James Alpha agreed to build a two-storeyed and garretted house for John How, lessee of the former home farmhouse, then a cottage. By 1698 the old farmhouse had been replaced by five brick tenements fronting the green south of Kirby’s Castle, a terrace of four small houses, and almost on the southern border a detached house with 14 rooms, a brewhouse, and coach house, occupied in 1703 by the estate’s owner Col. Joseph Jorey. Jorey’s house was by 1760 a workhouse and, of the terrace of four houses, one had been pulled down by 1802 and the others converted into two, owned by the widow of the ‘keeper of lunatics’.


    At the southern end the Kirby’s Castle estate, occupying the whole area south of Green Street and west of Globe Road, was split up in 1809. Houses were soon built, some by Charles Pike, on the west side of Globe Road and fronting the new James or North Street and Cornwall Street. A factory existed by 1817. Kirby’s Castle (the White House) remained an asylum; the Red House, a house designed for the insane, had been built to the south of it by 1831.

    And just to round off, [on a historical note].

    By 1836 Bethnal Green village had c. 289 houses, a public house, a brewery, and a factory on the east side of Cambridge Road and 401 houses and seven public houses on the west side.

  14. snowy says:

    Anybody wishing to read the account book, [patient histories], of the asylum is invited to click my name to be taken to a map from the Booth Archive. [Tick ‘Show notebooks’]

    The more adventurous might like to explore the map to find the ‘Deaf and Dumb’ School, the den of ‘juvenile criminals’ in Cornwall Sq. or discover of the home of the local militia.

    [Note for Jan only.]

    [Re. 6d “Can I do you now Sir!” you could just post the Lat/Long from the EXIF Metadata on the photogr…. No… forget that *strikes forehead* – it comes when it comes.

    If you can’t see the links above, GET YOUR BLOOMING…. THING FIXED!! WHAT ARE YOU USING? AN ETCH-A-SKETCH !?!?

    🙂 xx]

  15. martin says:

    I would love to see something that takes place in the late 70’s…Winter of discontent, Last Good Friday, etc. I’d love to see their reactions to what was happening in London/Britain at the time…

  16. Andrew Holme says:

    Following a recent discussion with my Year 9 students in our Locked Room Mystery Club, how about the use of nanotechnology to commit impossible seeming murders. A nano device placed in the victims to explode at a certain time would appear to be magical. Another suggestion was having a murder in a locked room, with B&M inside the room at the time. I don’t know if that notion has been used before. Time to check me Bob Adey!

  17. John Howard says:

    Oh goodie. Another one already. I know Helen and I would love to see Arthur in Barcelona even for only a little while. Honest, i realise the whole point of Arthur and John is Londoncentric but i’m sure they might need to pop over there to follow up just one little clue. The idea of John having to cope with Arthur going through the Ryanair check in process seems to have endless potential. (I promise that is the last time I will mention B&M and Barcelona as part of a plot)

  18. admin says:

    There’s a lot to unpack here…
    See next column later today!

  19. Ken Mann says:

    One contemporary phenomenon is mysterious misunderstanding of the nature of war and of WW2. There are people out there whose grasp of these recent events is weirdly wrong. Elderly Londoners I chat with matter of factly describe large scale horror, death and trauma, while people who ought to know better boast about how “we coped” rather than “we were damaged and the ghosts of it haunted us for ever”.

  20. Patrick Kilgallon says:

    I regret that almost all modern crime thrillers seem required to have at least one murder (unlike with our esteemed friend Mr Holmes) and it often seems to me that the victim(s) are almost seen as collateral damage, a bit like in war. I wonder if crimes committed by obsessive friends/family/acquaintances of victims of crimes carried out many years earlier by perpetrator(s) released from a long spell inside where they become the victim(s) and where it is difficult to make any connection, might provide Mr Bryant with an interesting challenge. A new mysterious type like Mr Fox would be quite good. Just a thought.

  21. Terrie says:

    Excited! Due to the whim of British law we may only live in our retirement flat 180 days so leave for the other home in the Pacific Northwest of USA November. I’m looking to get your latest just in time to board the plane until next year.

  22. snowy says:

    Apologies Jan, even for mock ‘shouty’ that was a bit too loud! I shall now go and sit in the ‘naughty corner’ until I have leaned my lesson.

    [Look forward to receiving the pics as and when they arrive.]



  23. Jan says:

    Sorry Snows I hadn’t noticed your original comment first off. Apart from me being CRAP AT COMPUTERS the internet here on the farm dropped off completely a couple of weeks back.
    Accessing the net @ work, libraries, leisure centres and Costas. (Pretending to drink their coffee which ain’t nice that’s both my pretending and their coffee)

    Am awaiting reply from Dorset Arch. Only got round to a sending the msg yesterday so don’t be holding your breath.

    Did make me way over 6d H on the same day as the visit to Badbury Rings but no go with the photies.
    Which were rubbish. Like my grammar.

    I LOVED the Etch a Sketch got my nephews Etch a Sketchies for Xmas when they were little. Cut no Ice with the computer game generation I ‘ll tell you. Highly unimpressed so they were. I LOVED that machine do you remember the silver stuff that used to leak out onto your fingers when you twiddled the turning button. I used to pretend that was nail polish. Practically invented metallic nail polish that machine did.I

    And I really understood it which is more than I can say about these, kindles, I pads, smartphones and suchlike.

  24. snowy says:

    Jan from the little you have said, it sounds like you are not ‘tethering’? Dead simple and turns your phone into a mobile Costa’s!

    Rather than me bore on about how, does your Library run computer sessions where they hose down a tame nerd and let it talk to normal people? [A little bit of ‘looking up’ tells me they are called ‘Digital Champions’ down by you.]

    Never had an Etch-a-Sketch, had the budget version called a ‘Magic Slate’, cheap cardboard thing!

  25. Jan says:

    I remember the magic slate it was a sheet of shiny plastic immediately above a sort of carbon paper. All on top of stuff cardboard. The pen that came with it looked a bit like a crochet hook. You scribbled on top of the plastic and then pulled it off the carbon breaking the seal and wiping your work clean, your writing /drawing dissappearing.
    Father Christmas brought me a magic slate a year or so before he could run to the real deal.

  26. Jan says:

    STIFF cardboard bloody spellchecker swine thing

  27. Helen Martin says:

    I loved the “hose down a tame nerd”. We have sessions like that at our Seniors College. I must pass “digital champions” on to the instructors. I think they’d like being called that.

  28. Helen Martin says:

    They wanted to take a picture of the Thanksgiving display this morning and had to go looking for someone with a “smart” phone because Ken and I have the old flip phones.

  29. Paul Waller says:

    The PCU having a investigative TV show going over one of their old convictions after new evidence comes to light.

  30. Jan says:

    I sort of see that Paul idea but think that your idea might work better if any such novel had some extremely unlucky and possibly ambitious SIO and his /her lackey interviewing each member of the team in turn in order that they give their personal recollections of a particular incident, investigation, house search or arrest.

    Imagine when stroppy Meera, Colin, Janice and each other team member in turn have to dredge up their memories (and their notebooks) to go over a disputed incident or arrest from half a decade ago. The comedy potential of Raymond and Arthur in this sort of situation could be brilliant.

    But its always interesting comparing recollections like this cos quite apart from the record of event they reflect each person’s mind set at the time. Sometimes it’s not so much the incident recollection that’s interesting its how each person’s life was unfolding at that particular time that comes into play. It goes along these lines.

    “May I refer to my notes?”
    “Were these notes made when this matter was fresh in your mind?”
    “Yes they were. They were made as soon as was possible after the incident together with Janice, Colin, Arthur starting at….. and ending at on date. (Day, date, time and Place)
    “Where were they made?”
    “In the canteen @Bow street” “In the station yard @ Penge.” “C.I.D office at Brixton.”

    It might work it might be cumbersome and undoable. Might be a way to write a different sort of detective novel. Might be worth a try though.

  31. Jan says:

    Should read Paul interesting idea. I can’t blame spellchecker for that one

  32. Ian Luck says:

    I love the place-name ‘Penge’. It’s such an odd word, but would look great on one of those signs that show a company’s branches, eg.,
    VOM-BOT Ltd.
    Abu Dhabi – Paris -Milan – Penge…

  33. Ian Luck says:

    PENGE v.
    To steal Penguins from the zoo, whilst on a school trip, by secreting them under your Duffel coat.

  34. Jan says:

    Ian yes you are right Estee Lauder cosmetics the essence of sophistication based in in New York, Rome, Paris and Penge….

  35. Helen Martin says:

    However, Rumpole’s Bungalow Murders took place in Penge – probably for the reason we’d like to put our detectives there.

  36. Nick says:

    FAO Snowy

    Cheers for the info! I’ll peruse the links in more depth later. Sorry I hadn’t replied sooner, but I’ve been on holiday.

    Much appreciated!


  37. snowy says:

    You’re very welcome, it’s just a few bits and pieces really. My next suggestion would be have a poke about in an online newspaper library, if your interest has been whetted. [Go via your local library’s online access page rather than direct, direct costs £s]

  38. Nick says:

    Cheers, Snowy – as it happens, I work next door to Romford library, which, I believe, has staff who specialise in historical research. I feel a lunchtime next week is destined there!

  39. Martin says:

    I’d love to see the boys loose in Edinburgh; it’s a great old city and has an ancient city below the city vibe. See ‘The town below the ground’ by Jan-Andrew Henderson for an interesting starting point.

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