Bryant & May Go Mad & Take Me With Them

Reading & Writing

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!

29 comments on “Bryant & May Go Mad & Take Me With Them”

  1. John Griffin says:

    Just to cheer you up, I read Plastic and loved it. I lent it to a friend who also loved it, and then ‘lost’ it when return was requested.

  2. Denise says:

    I read ‘ Plastic ‘ , and wanted more…

  3. Jo W says:

    Ooh sir,pleaz sir, ( points hand skywards) pleaz,pleaz sir, I red plastik,sir! So careful wich bits you use, copycat! Chiz

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Oddly, what happened to John’s copy of ‘Plastic’, happened to mine. After reading it for the second or maybe third time at work, I put it in my pigeonhole to lend to a workmate. When I came to work the next day, it had gone. As to where, or by whom, nobody knew.
    As to my Livery Company idea, there was not an atom of ‘Dan Brownishness’ in it. I just like the idea of someone having the gall to steal from such jealously protected treasures, and oddments from many sites for a nefarious, but not supernatural purpose. It was an escalation of an idea from, of all things, a Thunderbirds record I have had since I was a child, called ‘The Stately Homes Robberies.’ In 2015, it was actually made into a completely new episode of Thunderbirds, puppets, FAB 1, explosions and all, as part of the ‘Thunderbirds: 1965’ project, along with two other new episodes. That’s what’s on the only Blu-Ray I own. If you can find them, give them a watch – you’ll not be able (apart from running time) be able to tell that they are not 1965 originals. But our favourite typist inspired my idea was not. And I was a bit drunk, and had been looking through ‘The Dark Is Rising’ (a superb sequence, utterly ruined by Hollywood) when I added the ‘King Lud’ thing.

  5. Brooke says:

    Another Plastic reader here. Very fond of Ms. Cryer.
    The only connection I can see among Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and (private) gated parks are trees and the word garden. Kew is a world renowned research institution; parks are, well, despoiled privatized land assets. Never mind; I’ll stand down on this one, but stand firm on the Italian Whelk Horror.

    Thank you for not chucking Arthur into another era (Victorian, so cozy, so overdone); he was really pushing boundaries in ST and TLH. Why pull him backward?

  6. snowy says:

    Always happy to help… Dear. *lifts eyebrow*

    Despite my seeming lack of regard to the seriousness of the issue, I was doing a little research.

    There is an area of London not miles away that must contain some interesting history, particularly one notable institution. It was created against fierce opposition by the elite, who really hated the idea of its existence. To the point that it was the subject of a duel between the then Prime Minister and an objector. The Tory press absolutely hated it and waged a prolonged and very vocal campaign against it being built.

    It houses many strange artifacts and collections, is linked to many very famous people, ie. ones even I have heard of. Just pulling back the curtain a crack revealed: a mummified corpse, a medical procedure with a 300% fatality rate and the arrival of Mesmerism, [and I hadn’t really begun to probe].

    The wider area went on to become, and is as far as I know now still very ‘Chi-Chi’, just the sort of place that would be very annoyed to have lots of Police cluttering up the place asking difficult questions.

    [And if you need more of a clue, one of its founders set up “The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge”, not something I’m likely to ever stand accused of!]

  7. Dave Kearns says:

    I’m with your Ma, time to break out of the London box. Bryant & Mat At Sea has a nice ring. When the boys are invited to give a talk in New York (or Maybe Boston, or Philadelphia – doesn’t matter, that’s just a pretext) they avail themselves of a Cunard transatlantic (Mr. Bryant would never fly) with a few of the gang along for support. Crime breaks out amidships!
    Such fun.

  8. snowy says:

    Metroland has its merits as well, it is not dissimilar to London. But is more distributed with lots of green bits. Research might be much more difficult, it lacks a collected history, it’s all in piecemeal sources.

    But if you look hard enough in the right places you will find allsorts of things, a Russian spy-ring, an airline disaster, secret underground installations, Mafia bosses in hiding and even a man, aparently successfully posing as The Prime Minister of the country.

  9. Brooke says:

    @Snowy, how does one achieve a 300% mortality rate? Kill each patient 3 times? It would be useful to know.

  10. eggsy says:

    What have you got planned, Brooke?!

  11. snowy says:

    B, it’s rather infamous, [even if not terribly good maths]. Look up ‘Robert Liston famous cases’.

  12. eggsy says:

    Actually, I was thinking along Metroland lines myself, or even housing estates not built by railway companies. Its a little different, but still London-ish. Its generally ignored (easier to treat in a fresh manner). And as every bit has a buried rural history going back to Domesday and beyond there’s the opportunity to go _really_ Deep English. Explore some rural historical concepts. Nefarious goings on connected to residual manorial rights? The hedgerow at the end of the garden could date from the bronze age. Ley lines, dammit!

  13. admin says:

    Hmmm….’rural historical concepts’. I’m rather hoping to settle on a single concept. I’ll get lost down the research rabbit-hole and never emerge!
    As it is, I have to search for Snowy’s clues now just to see what on earth he’s on about. And I’m worried that Brooke is planning a murder too.

  14. Peter Tromans says:

    Brooke, interpret it literally: one patient, three deaths. Nowadays, it would probably be called, euphemistically, collateral or friendly fire.

    As a non-londoner, Metro-land seems very much London, together with everything at least to the outermost hard shoulder of the M25.

  15. Brooke says:

    Thank you, Snowy and Peter. I am enlightened. Shall keep for future reference.

  16. David says:

    Holland Park, the Crowley mansion, Leighton House, the black magicians and tarrot artistes of SW5, and Brompton Cemetery.

  17. snowy says:

    I thought I did particularly well NOT to mention the wheelbarrow.

    Oh Bugger!

  18. Agatha Hamilton says:

    The wheelbarrow does boggle the imagination. Best not to think about it really.
    Makes Gibbon’s affliction seem quite minor in comparison.

  19. John Howard says:

    Damn, there was me, reading the blog, thinking I was going to be the one to say; sir, sir, pleeze sir, I read Plastic (and bought it before doing so) sir. But ’twas not to be. Ah well. As Jo (Molesworth) W says.. Chiz.

  20. Andrew Holme says:

    It seems everyone HAS read ‘Plastic’. Can I be the first to say I haven’t got ’round to reading it yet? It is on my list though.

  21. Helen Martin says:

    Plastic went past me somehow and I have wondered several times how that happened. I still have to see if I can get one because everything said sounds good. No matter what is in that book it doesn’t matter if it gets used again. London is always there. The facts of its past are always there. Other authors have used bits of all that. So?

  22. Andrew Holme says:

    The heading for this post, ‘Bryant and May Go Mad…’ Is Bryant an affliction that causes insanity?

  23. Stuart Williams says:

    Just got back from the Secret Rivers exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and, while I’m not suggesting the area as a story location, you may be interested to know that there is a copy of The Water Room on display there. It sits alongside a copies of Rivers of London, Neverwhere and some other works of fictional based on London’s rivers. Seeing it there made an interesting exhibition even better.

  24. snowy says:

    I’m sure you are all desparately bored with my coyness, but I picked up the notion I was fiddling with and gave it another good shake to see what else I could make fall out.

    It was supposed to have a monorail with cars slung underneath.

    It contained the headquarters of the ‘London Mendacity Society’ as well as the ‘Home for Sandwichboard-men’.

    Several of the roads no longer have their original names, because they were all scenes of notorious murders.

    Including one described:

    “…the house kept its sinister reputation for decades to come: it was reported to be haunted, and strange groans and screams were heard…The bloodstain on the floorboards in the murder room could not be removed by any amount of scrubbing, and no dog would pass this room of horrors without snarling, whining and giving indications of intense terror.”

    [I suspect that the modern residents of these streets are completely oblivious to the fact].

    And it also was the residence of a notorious American medium. He was arrested and tried for fakery, [apparently one of the witnesses for the Crown was [John Neville] Maskelyne], convicted – but got off on appeal, [there was a loophole]. When he fled the country he left behind a piece of furniture* with a very viscious streak, [It attacked a Colonel].

    [* Last seen in South Ken. 2010, highly probable that it is still there.]

  25. Nick says:

    Metroland? Noooooooo! Anyone remotely creative or arty always looks to the west or south when thinking of suburbs. Go on – try east! I can’t think of any decent fiction involving Barking & Dagenham, Havering or Redbridge!

  26. Ian Luck says:

    Nick – people do do it – Jah Wobble made a really good but odd track called ‘A13’. I agree, though. I’m an ‘Easterner’, and have wondered why this part of England gets short changed culturally.

  27. Wayne says:

    B&M could go mad and take anyone with them. They frequently take me on a journey (not necessarily into madness) every time I read one of their adventures I feel as if i’m right there with them. If you do find Metro-land as the destination for the next adventure, I shall be transported right back to where I once lived. I wonder what could occur in the land of the curtain twitcher?

    I also read Plastic. I was put off it though by reading a couple of reviews on Amazon.co.uk, one in particular was not positive at all. However I got over that and took the plunge, I did enjoy it. While reading Frightening on my Kindle I was reminded of Plastic as one of the short stories was very much like it, I’m not sure if that short story was the starting point for the novel? Anyway. I enjoyed it.

  28. Ian Luck says:

    Having laughed my way through many Amazon reviews, I got the distinct impression that some, at least, had not read the book that they were reviewing, and some were giving a review of a completely different book. Others, I have never managed to understand what they were on about. Some people seem to have a tenuous, at best, grasp of the difference between ‘Fact’ and ‘Fiction’. A few are by people who have never read the book – but have seen the movie based on it.
    That was my review of ‘Amazon Reviewers’.
    Unless it is a review of a faulty object, that could blind, maim, or kill, I’d take most Amazon book reviews with a large grain of salt.

  29. Wayne says:

    Thats great Ian, thanks for that review. I often feel that what you have said is totally correct while I look through the book reviews on Amazon. The same is often true for other items for sale, the review is so obviously for something other than the item on the page.

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