Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: Dan Banbury
Many, many books are written by outsiders. Writing is a solitary, strange occupation, and writing well requires enormous willpower and single-mindedness. It occupies writers’ minds and possesses them. There is a constant need to improve, yet I can open a cheap crime novel from the 1940s and find better writing than I am capable of producing, so there is always a goal above this one, and a goal above that.
Outsiders write about outsiders, or about insiders who are forced to break out. A great many of them appear in The Book of Forgotten Authors, my homage to the weirder ends of the bookshelves.
Example: Billy Liar is an outsider living among ordinary people who are ‘content just to be themselves’. But Billy loses his nerve in the process of breaking out. His failure turns the book into a tragedy, which is why I’ve never wanted to read the pointless-sounding sequel.
If the Peculiar Crimes Unit is run by people left outside of normal society and largely ignored or abandoned for being different, then Dan Banbury is another exceptional ‘normal’ stuck with a group of misfits. He is, effectively, Marilyn Munster, the only regular member of the Munsters, a now rather forgotten show about a family of vampires and monsters from the 1960s which was great visually but painfully unfunny.
Desiring a normal life but finding yourself saddled with a strange family is a familiar literary trope. Banbury is married with two children, plays football in the garden and helps his wife around them house, loves all things mechanical and technical, and puts up with the PCU rather than considering himself part of them. The fact that he has to remind them he has children doesn’t surprise him. Everyone else is consumed by their work.
But Banbury protests too much; in his own way he’s almost as strange. He’s never happier than when he’s working late to sort out his NAS*. The PCU allows him to indulge himself. He invents and adapts, and views the periodic destruction of the unit as a chance to add new technology in the walls. The longer he stays at the unit, the stranger he’ll become…
*Network Attached Storage