Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: Dan Banbury

Bryant and May

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

9 comments on “Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: Dan Banbury”

  1. Liz Thompson says:

    Work or live anywhere long enough, and you start being changed/affected by your surroundings, which includes the people. Not to imply this is necessarily for the better. Or worse. Just…..changed. We all go through it as children. Parents, friends, school. It’s a wonder anyone turns out even halfway normal. If indeed they do.

  2. Paul C says:

    Billy Liar on the Moon is a hugely disappointing sequel as much as I’m a fan of Keith Waterhouse. His best books are two volumes of autobiography City Lights and City Streets plus a fat collection of journalism called Waterhouse at Large.

    Much prefer The Addams Family to The Munsters : Morticia : ‘Gomez, last night, you were unhinged. You were like some desperate, howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again’.

  3. Peter T says:

    Strange, not-normal? To whom? I find all the wise and the good people of the PCU perfectly normal in the sense that their behaviour seems to me to be what I would do or would like to do or expect others to do. But then the behaviour of an idiot, such as Raymond, or the evil individuals in the Home Office is also all too normal in the world, that is the real world. Perhaps we should put aside ‘normal’ and think more in terms of ‘acceptable.’

    As for Dan, I think that he’s a great character and in a short while, say half a century or so, he’s the obvious successor to Arthur.

  4. Jan says:

    is Dan Banbury not the posh bloke who.had a conversation with one of his work.buddies that went like there had been some shooting on.his estate and the work mate replies that there had been some shootings on his/her estate as well. Can’t remember which book.it was but was comical.

  5. admin says:

    That was me, Jan. FFS.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    The Munsters whose main gag was that they thought everyone else odd and couldn’t work out people’s fear and reaction to them’ boy did they milk that, John Caradine (Herman’s boss) was in the series and film. When I think of the series, amiable is the word that springs to mind. It did have a good cast. The scary thing is there was another TV movie with a lot of the original cast in the 80’s. There was a new series in the 80’s with a different cast (both series had around 70 episodes.) there were quite a number of other TV movies the last in 2012 (pilot for an aborted series) called Mockingbird Lane with Eddie Izzard as Grampa.

    Wayne.

  7. Ian Luck says:

    I always preferred The Addams Family to The Munsters – although The Munsters did get about in some beautiful George Barris Custom cars. But The Addams Family, like the cartoons that spawned it, was deliciously mean-spirited and dark in places. And I really liked that as a kid, and the shows still hold up today. Better theme tune, too – which was adapted, I’m told by Ipswich Town fans, to be sung when playing against bitter rivals, Norwich City:

    “Your Father is your Brother,
    Your Sister is your Mother,
    You all f**k one another.
    The Norwich family.”
    I can’t add anything to that, so I’ll get my coat.

  8. Paul Connolly says:

    There’s an excellent website about Forgotten Authors called Neglected Books which is well worth a visit.

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