Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: The Two Daves


When I’m coming up with characters, some turn up simply because they’re needed at that point. I pull elements from the history of pop culture, a few classical allusions and the traits of friends, but the image of the workmen has always been there in my head.

I wanted a Greek chorus to react against the main cast of the Bryant & May novels, and I found it in the Two Daves. 

Mystery authors can be tricksters; some of us like to hide puzzles, jokes and references inside our books. Musicians do it all the time, and I’ve been doing it for years in the Bryant & May volumes.

A number of characters came from my love of old forgotten British comedies. The name of Dame Maude Hackshaw, one of Maggie Armitage’s coven, is a briefly seen replacement headmistress in a St Trinian’s film, as is the idea of the two Daves never leaving the PCU office.

In ‘Blue Murder at St Trinian’s’, two workmen arrive to repair a floor in the Ministry of Education after the pupils have committed a Rififi-style robbery. They remain there in the background through the rest of the film, brewing up tea and gradually arranging more paraphernalia around the hole in a comment on the British workers of the time, who were considered to be union-bound and lazy. In the above scene, Culpepper-Brown of the Min. Ed. is outlining a government plan and says to the workmen ‘I say, have you finished with the sugar?’ without breaking off.

British comedies of the 1950s were not afraid to be partisan. In the same film the civil servants cheer a Labour government, only to be chastised by a charlady who reminds them of their government pledge.

The Two Daves are Turkish chancers from Green Lanes, an area in London known for Turkish restaurants, who gradually get drawn into unit life and eventually offer suggestions on policing methods. They gradually move from being critical of the unit to championing it against the forces of bureaucracy. They’re minor comedy relief, of course, but add another patch to the quilt of PCU life.

29 comments on “Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: The Two Daves”

  1. Dave Young says:

    Love the Two Dave’s, however having lived on (and near) Green Lanes for many years I reckon you’d be lucky to meet anyone Turkish – or Kurdish – called ‘Dave’…

  2. Brooke says:

    Thought you borrowed the two from Bob Newhart–“this is my brothet, Dave, and this is my other brother Dave.”

  3. Paul C says:

    Some things never change – my local swimming baths had a few wonky beams in the sauna seating and a joiner / member said he would fix them for free but no, the council had to do it and their workmen finally got around to it 3 weeks later. And they’re still wonky…….

    Comic relief from the Two Daves is great. I really enjoy comic crime novels : Donald E Westlake’s Dortmunder series, Gregory Mcdonald’s Fletch books (the films were ruined by casting Chevy Chase) and Dick Lochte’s Leo Bloodworth books. I wonder why crime and comedy work well together ? As a victim of crime I can say there’s nothing remotely funny about it in real life.

  4. admin says:

    Crime and comedy work brilliantly but comedy often undercuts crime in reviewers’ eyes…

  5. Jan says:

    Dave Young is of course correct. I always though using the name “Dave” was a rum choice
    when the characters grew and we heard more about them ….

  6. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I assumed that Arthur couldn’t remember their real names, so called them both Dave, and it stuck.
    Remember Trigger and Rodney? Or Papa Lazarou? Dave seems to be a default name.

  7. Bernard says:

    I think Newhart’s characters were “my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl” an allusion to rural inbreeding. I can’t say I like the two Dave’s as they are essentially a form of slapstick which I find cruel at worst and childish at best.

  8. Brooke says:

    Bernard, you’re right. Too early in the morning and watching too much COVID coverage.
    I also thought the two Daves would turn out to be SS/SIS agents.

  9. Brian Evans says:

    I visualised “Blue Murder at St Trinians ” and the two Daves right from the start. Do I get a prize?

    Sorry to be an anorak, but I think cheering Labour was “Great St Trinians Train Robbery” The film’s opening is set on election night, and the joke was that if Labour got to power, they might get rid of all schools like St T’s

    I have just finished reading a bio of Michael Ripper who was in the St T’s films.

  10. Debra Matheney says:

    Oranges and Lemons is a real hoot. We need all the humor where we can find it, and this opus of yours hits the spot.I keep laughing out loud, a rare occurance when reading. My husband keeps asking what’s so funny. Thanks to you for the comic relief.

  11. Brian Evans says:

    I second what Debra has said. I am about three quarters of the way through, and it’s a cracking good read. I love the humour as well. I am also amazed at the research you must have done, especially with the medical bits.

  12. Peter Dixon says:


    This is true: I had a friend called Dave Price (cousin of Alan Price) still in distant contact.
    I met my girlfriend who’s brother was named David, we got married. Her sisters boyfriend was named Davey, they married so I had two Davids as my brothers-in-law. One of them had a son who is named David.
    My younger sister married a guy called David (a coal miner), they divorced and she met another bloke and they married – his name is David.
    I started my first job at the same time as two people called David – David Pearcy and David Haldane (Times and Punch / Private Eye cartoonist). I moved to an advertising agency – the directors were David Urwin and David Purvis. The next job I did was photographing merchandise for Newcastle United – the bloke I worked for was Dave Hewson; he had another Dave working for him as a typesetter. When I set up my own design studio I employed a great guy called David Sharp. Meanwhile I’ve recently rekindled my contact with an old friend called Dave Turnbull.

    Its all a bit much, really.

  13. Richard Nordquist says:

    In O&L, Bryant wears a jumper featuring “Santa Claus being blessed by Jesus.” Thank you, Mr Fowler.

  14. Ian Luck says:

    Turkish and called Dave? Why not? There is a saying, that “Everybody knows a Dave.” Yup. I work with a couple, I have an uncle of that name, and it’s the name of our cat. ‘Dave’ is a chummy sort of name, and if two blokes from Turkey wanted to fit in, what better way, than to call yourself ‘Dave’. It’s easy to say, and to remember.
    In the ‘Ripping Yarns’ episode, ‘Whinfrey’s Last Case’, our hero encounters a German U-Boat crew, who, when questioned, all turn out to be called ‘Eddie’. Same sort of thing, except that, in 1915, ‘Eddie’ was a more common name than ‘Dave’. Possibly.

  15. Ian Mason says:

    Hey man, Dave’s not here.

  16. John Howard says:

    Yup… The two Dave’s are a bit special.
    My own Dave story…. We have a cat named by Grandson as Puss… He wasn’t particularly happy with that (the cat that is) and has an alter ego… “Dangerous Dave”. He’s a bit of an east end geezer and is a devil with “the ladies”. (All of this despite being born in Spain)

  17. Gary Hart says:

    I had a freind from Greece called Demitri Kyparissis. When he came to England he didn’t want people to shorten his name to Dim, so adopted Jim as his moniker instead to preempt the confusion of 70s England and a foreign language. I kind of assumed the Dave and Dave situation to be a bit like that.

  18. Jo W says:

    At one time our Friday afternoon gang of “old codgers in a pub” had quite a few Daves, so they had nicknames ie Dave the fish,M&S Dave, Dave the records etc. It got more confusing when one of the hostelries-Dog and Bull by name- got a couple of Daves as barmen. We renamed it the Dog and Dave.
    Please, commenters, can I ask, no spoilers. I haven’t got my O&L yet. I’m looking forward to reading the further adventures of the Daves, which seems to be the go to name for men with difficult foreign names, when they want to be one of the blokes.

  19. snowy says:

    WARNING: Contains a not inconsiderable amount of bad daub whoring! [But it is the weekend.. Hurrah!]

    ‘Smart but Strange‘ has sort of morphed into something else, [pending any new ideas, from anyone?]

    But en-route it produced some tangibles things:

    First was this ideal for covering that damp patch in the bathroom. [Damp patches elsewhere, try changing the sheets or fanning yourself off with a copy of the TLS.]

    This spawned something slightly less fussy drawn at A3 but will scale down to A4 quite nicely. [There exists in-potentio a version that replaces the word ‘reader’ with ‘writer’, but I’m not expecting any takers.]

    For the truly unhinged the design could be placed on a t-shirt [it has a transparent background, which may be rendered as grey and white checkerboard in some viewers, this is normal. This has not been tested in the real world, seek advice from a suitably qualified person….. preferably a Mental Health Specialist, I mean T-shirts really…. Other possibilities are a book/tote bag, iPad cover might be just a bit too small.]

    A badge of some form is still a possibility, probably a file to take to a print-shop/online supplier, [doing it in enamel is quite possible, but distribution is the killer]. This is the current draft, now with colour options

  20. Helen Martin says:

    Right, Jo, and when we first met them we were told that their names were difficult and they were just called Dave. It’s interesting that the PCU refer to them as Dave (“we’ll get the Daves to man the phones”) but I don’t recall any time when they were addressed that way. I love the Daves because I think I’ve met them a few times and discovered that they usually know what’s what where they’re working.

  21. Ian Luck says:

    The late lamented bass (and any instrument he picked up) player of the 1980’s band ‘Japan’, came from Cyprus, and was christened Adonis Michaeliedes. Bit of a mouthful, so he renamed himself ‘Mick Karn’. A name anyone could remember.

  22. Dawn Andrews says:

    My, what a lot of Dave’s there are in the world. I loved the St Trinians films, favorite quote ‘there’s bound to be trouble when there’s arson around.’

  23. Dawn Andrews says:

    Snowy, a smart but strange notepad vwould be cooool! I mean a held reflectively in café with pen hovering kind of notepad. A smart but strange moleskine. Nice.

  24. snowy says:

    I have done some fake ‘dust covers’ for notebooks, [this was ages ago when I still had an A3 printer], but very few people carry them today.

    Moleys are hard because of the round corners and aspect ratio, the way round it would be to adjust the layout, [text size & spacing to fit – all do-able], for printing out on some Self-adhesive stock, trimmed and applied to the cover.

  25. Helen Martin says:

    Ken and I looked at the colour versions – and I like that raven more every time I look at it. He says he wants a blue and a pink. I’d like the rainbow one if the green didn’t neutralise the outline. Well, I’ll work on it.
    The “eye chart” version meets my original understanding and would certainly attract glances, but I think it is definitely a t-shirt or tote bag thing. It needs to be large enough for the bottom line to be easily readable – keeping social distancing, you know.
    After I’ve done a bunch of cards this evening I’ll be able to get back to my original
    My brother’s middle name was David.

  26. Dawn Andrews says:

    Love ravens. Edgar Allen Poe knew his stuff. Just got back here due to a comment in appendix comments, which proves the need! Think you are right about the readability issues Helen.

  27. Paul C says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, Dawn – it’s Edgar ALLAN Poe. The use of Allen crops up all the time – even in OUP books.
    Poor old Eddie………

    Apologies, Dawn

  28. snowy says:

    Thanks for feedback both, I think… Chart and Poster can stay as they are, the gag with these is to hang them on a wall and watch, as people who suspect there is something going on in the image slowly shuffle across the room, getting nearer and nearer as the text shrinks.

    I think I will revisit the print image, too many minor changes to list, but let’s see if we can make something a little bolder and more suited for Lady D to pose about in Coffee-Shops with. [wink]

    [The rainbow and the pink need a bit more contrast/bit darker on the parrot, I’ll have a play about].

  29. Dawn Andrews says:

    No need for apologies, Paul, quite right to point that out. And Snowy and Helen, very much enjoy all comments and creative ideas. Some great ones going on here much appreciated by this lady.

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