Is It Too Early To Mention Next Year?

Reading & Writing

I am a driven scribomaniac to the detriment of my personal life.


For many authors 2019 was another annus horribilis, as publishers exercised caution in a retrenched market. The competition grew fiercer but the books published (far too many of them) became tamer, and it often felt as if they failed to exist in our modern world. This is partly because of the minimum two-year lead time to publish a book – longer if it first involves a hardback. In theory books are recession-proof, a relatively cheap way of spending one’s leisure time and a reliable source of joy. But not always for the authors.

In 2018 I had my first (and last) pseudonymous thriller out, which failed to appear as a print book after the loss of its editor. This means that the ‘LK Fox’ brand is doornail-dead. I spent half of the year working on a major project and sent it to an editor for her view, but she hated it. I decided to back-burner it until I could put in more research at a future date, which will be summer 2020. Recently a friend of mine reassessed his career as a writer and decided to stop, in what I regard to be an act of great bravery. All creative people have thoughts of stopping and yet we are paradoxically driven on by the same negative feelings that feed us those doubts.

But this year was a bumper year for Bryant & May, with two novels published in the UK, ‘The Lonely Hour’ and ‘England’s Finest’, and next year there’ll be the biggest Bryant & May novel yet, ‘Oranges & Lemons’. While I was waiting for the edit to arrive I completed a stand-alone psychological thriller called ‘Summer Dies’.

So why write another psychological suspense novel now?

I only read/review books that I enjoy, but lately I received so many shockingly bad novels about girls abducted, tortured and murdered (mostly by female authors, surprisingly) that I thought I could ring the changes on this and try something new. ‘Little Boy Found’ (original title: ‘There’s Something I Haven’t Told You’) was different from other missing-child stories in some ways (the hypnosis, the same-sex couple, an unexpected approach) but it also followed a familiar path.

‘Summer Dies’ is intended to push the genre into a slightly different area. Like ‘Nyctophobia’ it takes place in bright sunshine, in a seemingly idyllic place (largely beside a pool) which turns sour – but unlike other novels in this area, it’s only after you finish it that you realise what it’s missing. ‘Nyctophobia’ didn’t sell particularly well, probably because I lacked the confidence to chase a larger publisher. I’m very proud of my four books with Solaris, but they didn’t get wide distribution because indie houses don’t.

With ‘Summer Dies’ I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of the greats here – Margaret Millar, Charlotte Armstrong, Vera Caspary. If the novel takes off I plan to write a second thriller in the same manner, a kind of domestic suspense style I’ve developed specifically for this kind of writing. Ideally I’d love to get it published next year but lead time is long in the publishing world. My output is unusually consistent; I am a driven scribomaniac often to the detriment of my personal life, but I’m surrounded by tolerant people. It really is a bit like being a serial killer (see homepage masthead) in that you always feel pressure building to write again.

Any day now I’ll be starting the edits for ‘Oranges & Lemons’. The cover art sketches are in but I can’t show them yet as they’re subject to change and I don’t want them to end up like those old Superman covers which featured scenes not in the stories. I’m pleased with the way the book has turned out – it was a lot of fun to write but I raised my game by creating an extra draft, which meant locking myself away for the summer, working every day.

Now I’m finally between books and am starting to make plans for the 20th B&M volume (the 18th by the US count, as the two volumes of missing cases are e-books there, which sadly means American readers miss the luscious hardback covers unless they buy from the UK).

And there are other irons in the fire. A TV series of Bryant & May is still in the wings and please God we won’t all be dead before it finally appears. I have, at the last count, outlines on a further six projects. Mercifully a lack of inspiration is something that has never troubled me – but I think that most people, given the right encouragement, will often surprise themselves.




25 comments on “Is It Too Early To Mention Next Year?”

  1. David Ronaldson says:

    I hope the TV series comes to fruition, although I somewhat dread David Jason’s Arthur Bryant opposite Thandie Newton’s Jean May…

  2. Brooke says:

    I met 2019 goal: 2 new readers for B&M series. 77 Clocks was the hook, of course.

    btw: would you like a copy of “Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine: Current Practices” for Arthur’s collection? As his cases often involve animals, he may find it useful. Covers timely topics such as cutaneous invasive ascomyosis (white nose) in bats; tasmanian devil facial tumors (how does one distinguish?); meadow viper reintroduction and reptile analgesics.

  3. John Griffin says:

    Match made in heaven, alas: Alastair Sim for Arthur, George Baker (in middle age) as May. Not as much for the resemblance as for the banter.

  4. Peter Dixon says:

    TV Bryant and May? Yes please!

  5. Richard says:

    John Savident as Arthur, and Timothy Dalton as John? Not sure if the heights would work, but I’d watch that!

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Brooke, where did you find the book? It sounds like a basic tome, especially with the bat disease, although that can only be descriptive, surely, since I’m pretty sure they haven’t found a cure.
    Reptile analgesics. Would they have to be different from warm blooded animals’? The blood circulation is different so I suppose so. Arthur definitely needs that book.
    Am not going to either cast or speculate on a tv production, since we’ve been through that hope so many times but looking forward to a great new year as I hope are all this site’s habitues, including Admin himself, in spite of all the nasty news.

  7. Ian Mason says:

    My mental image of Arthur is an aged Phil Davis (the crotchety DS in Whitechapel). Mind you, by the time we probably will get to see it, you wouldn’t actually have to get the make-up department to age him.

  8. Brian Evans says:

    Fingers crossed for the TV version.

    Let’s hope Chris can adapt it himself. The later Poirots and Marples bore very little relationship to the books

  9. Peter Tromans says:

    I’ve sort of enjoyed the TV adaptation of Frank Tallis’ Max Liebermann books, but I don’t understand the changes. Why has policeman Oskar, who is, in the books, well adjusted and happily married, troubled and separated? To satisfy a standard TV cliché? And Max is English instead of Austrian. I might enjoy films with Mark Harmon or Maggie Smith, but would hate to see them as Arthur and John!

  10. Roger says:

    “All creative people have thoughts of stopping…”
    Perhaps, but even if they could do other jobs, would they be allowed to?
    I’ve always thought of Simon Raven, who only became a novelist when he had rendered himself unemployable in any other field, as being much more typical than most writers would acknowledge.

  11. Jay Mackie says:

    But what’s happening re your ‘definitive volume of short stories’ Chris? Back burner?

  12. j mendez says:

    Just finished The Lonely Hour following the course of your B&M series. Loved it, and all of your books. I worry that there are wild animals crowded in a labyrinth inside your head. How do you manage to track it all? Phenomenal.

  13. SteveB says:

    Lots to look forward to in 2020 🙂 Life is good sometimes 🙂

  14. admin says:

    Jay, the definitive book of short stories is done and delivered, but in the way of these things has now entered some mysterious Sargasso-like spot wherein nothing happens or will happen for a long period while nobody looks at it.

    John, odd that you should mention George Baker as May. He might have been in my mind to begin with, because I got my first agent through George. He was a good friend and a very kind man.

  15. Andrew Holme says:

    Synchronicity. I’ve just been chatting in the staffroom about TV in the Seventies and how you only had one shot at watching a favourite programme. We got onto I Claudius and how good the acting was and how as a series, it still stands up well today. We talked about George Baker and Brian Blessed. Logged on here to get my morning fix and lo and behold, here’s George…!

  16. Eliz Amber says:

    “I only read/review books that I enjoy, but lately I received so many shockingly bad novels about girls abducted, tortured and murdered (mostly by female authors, surprisingly)… .”

    I’ve noticed that, too. I picked up one that was so horrifyingly graphic, I quit reading about a quarter of the way in. Not a good trend, from a feminist point of view.

    ‘The Lonely Hour’ was just released on Kindle here in the US, as I’m sure you know, and I like waiting for the December releases – it’s a treat during the busy holiday season. As always, I enjoyed the characters, the mystery, the setting, but most of all that it wasn’t only a mystery novel – there was a lot more to think about, in terms of isolation in modern times.

  17. Brooke says:

    @ Helen, re: Fowler’s wild animal text. Like the Evil One in Job, I was wandering to and fro around town, up to no good, and came across the book. Reptile analgesics decidely different; 1) how do you know your reptile is suffering, and 2) how do you administer the treatment. Excellent chapter on correct procedure for examining a crocodile.

  18. Ian Luck says:

    George Baker starred in a show on TV that my late father adored – ‘Bowler’. If I remember, it was about a particularly unlucky ex-con trying to get on in life. It gained early notoriety for it’s opening credits, at the end of which, Bowler did a ‘V’ sign (Up yours!) to the camera.

  19. eggsy says:

    Helen, I think you’re right, from what I can remember the anaesthetic oddities of reptiles are due to their generally slower metabolism: risk of overdosing in impatience as they refuse to go under, and longer recovery time so extended danger period.
    Tasmanian devil facial tumours are communicable: they are genetically identical tumours spread from one ancestral individual, exploiting the TD’s violent habits (and a quirk of their immune system) to transfer to and infect new individuals. Conservation efforts are focused on isolating uninfected populations, but there are signs that resistance is developing in the population at large; straightforward natural selection I suppose, the more susceptible having been killed off. So there’s hope yet they won’t the same way as the thylacine.
    Er, Brooke, if Arthur doesn’t want it (or already has a copy) could I…

  20. Diane Englot says:

    Chris…what are the titles of the missing cases books that are only available here as e-books? Since I usually buy your books via Amazon UK, it could be I have them as “real” books already, but I want to make sure. Thanks!

  21. Brooke says:

    @eggsy. I tripped over the animal book at a university city bookstore, a cemetary for used textbooks (In phl, we have 3 vet med schools and a zoo, also a research facility) I didn’t buy it (as my snake has disappeared,. noneed) but I assume you can find the book somewhere on-line. If you can’t find it, let me know and I’ll see if used copy is still available. Though I have no idea how to get it to you, Cheers.

  22. Helen Martin says:

    @Brooke I always liked that description of the Devil, poking his nose in where it wasn’t wanted, but it doesn’t apply to you and the discovery of a book that Arthur desperately needs if he doesn’t already have. If not there then it could have been used in Montreal the other day to examine risk free the alligator they found crossing a major street. Watching the film footage I wondered if it was suffering pain or just becoming logy from the cold.(Wanted “loggy” there due to alligators’ known habit of pretending to logginess in rivers but the system didn’t like the word. Doesn’t like logginess either. (I tried to post this yesterday but the system said I already had and wouldn’t “repeat” it.)
    I had to look up “thylacine” eggsy. With all this DNA research going on surely something disappearing as lately as 1933 could be recreated – if one really wanted one.
    Brooke – your snake disappeared? I assume it was a harmless one and that it lived out a normal existence in spite of leaving your home.

  23. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – if you want to know about odd stuff like the sad affair of the Thylacine, look for a magazine that I have enjoyed for 25+ years: ‘Fortean Times’. It’s a monthly compendium of basically weird stuff from around the world. Some serious, some laughable, some deeply troubling, but always a good read. I’m sure that it’s available online. Not sure if a physical copy is available in Canada, but it’s worth tracking down. It’s one of the few magazines that I read cover to cover. It regularly shows me stuff that I didn’t realise I needed to know. And a hell of a lot of stuff that I didn’t. It’s definitely a publication that Arthur Bryant would be familiar with, and consider ‘useful’.

  24. Helen Martin says:

    I have heard mention of the Fortean Times. It looks like yet another magazine I need to meet, but I don’t even get through the Walrus these days.

  25. Jan says:

    Is that Kings X Mags Court.? Or the old Nick/ stables/traffic warden centre nearby? I know these buildings are all pretty much of a muchness. That looks very familiar though.

    You look like you were lucky to make bail from there in that picture. That’s a bit scary Chris

    It’s probably a disused library ……mind you you’ve still got that look

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