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.