Bryant & May Go Mad & Take Me With Them
And so to our most recent batch of readers’ comments on where to send Bryant & May next. (This still makes me think of my mother saying ‘I think you’ve mined out that particular seam, dear,’ after volume 5).
Monuments; When the British build a monument, they first have dinner inside it, cf. Crystal Palace, the Marble Arch etc. I worry about creating global conspiracies and drifting into the territory of the well-known typist, Mr Dan Brown. Human stories are better than conspiracies in general, although I am fascinated by the crossovers between Trump and Putin.
I’ve thought about Kew Gardens as a location before. It would make a great setting along with the eerily beautiful Wisley. Except – ‘Wild Chamber’, a book nearly all readers cite back to me as ‘Wild Chambers’, just as they pluralised ‘Strange Tide’.
Modern day country houses are interesting (anyone remember the play ‘Lettuce and Lovage’?) and I’ve never used the Planetarium (best used in its old location by JG Ballard in ‘The Drowned World’, as was the roof of the Ritz).
I’m tempted to chuck them into another era for there fun of writing a Victorian one-off, although I fancy MRC Kasasian has already done a more brilliant job than me with his five Sidney Grice books.
Epping Forest, forever known in our family as Where Dad Lost The Car, would be interesting although it’s really just another forest. King Lud, unearthed corpses, cold cases etc all feel as if they need a new spin. On that subject may I recommend the TV show ‘Criminal’, which one critic describes as ‘CSI: Terence Rattigan Unit’. It’s a one-location series of single stories set in the same police interrogation room in four different countries, UK, France, Germany and Spain, and is a crime-watchers’ delight.
With your help, even Snowy’s, I have narrowed the search down to three broad areas. Greenwich is a favourite, even though I wrote about it extensively in ‘Paperboy’. Department stores old and new – there’s something very odd about them, although I covered them in some detail in ‘Plastic’ (seeing as nobody read that novel I could probably re-use the source material without anyone noticing).
And…Metroland. Sir John Betjeman’s groundbreaking 1973 documentary about the ignored suburbs of London explained how the metropolis developed its urban eden and set the pattern for modern living. Sir John Betjeman’s pet subject can be explored on BBC iPlayer’s archives.
Now we’re getting somewhere! A human-sized story from the seemingly dead and dull suburbs could provide a rich seam to mine (thanks again, Ma). Much of London still runs below the radar, and the suburbs are dismissed with a few lazy swipes at philistinism.
I treasure our Comments section because I never get time to properly talk to readers during signings (which is why I usually invite them to the pub afterwards). I think all authors should do this occasionally. I have no problem with ‘fan service’ – it worked well enough in ‘El Camino’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and even ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ – so long as something fresh is introduced.
This is why each crime story I write in the B&M series provides loyal readers with recurring characters, because I could just as easily have presented them as different standalone mysteries with constantly new characters.
And I think when you get to the end of next year’s novel, you’ll feel that something fresh has been dropped in your lap. 2020 will be a year for new avenues of exploration!