What’s Next For Bryant & May?
Could I actually get Bryant & May to be the longest running mystery novel series?
No, sadly, though quantity should never beat out quality. I’ve been trying to draw up a list of detectives with longevity, but it’s hard to figure out. I should comfortably pass R Austin Freeman at 21 Dr Thorndyke books and Holmes doesn’t count as there were only four novels. But Gladys Mitchell managed 66 Mrs Bradley books, and I’m sure there are countless others who went as high.
‘Oranges & Lemons’ was a lot of fun to write, but research-heavy and exhausting to produce. It was the longest Bryant & May book to date, and required me to lose a summer, during which time I locked myself away and saw no friends. I thought that locking down and concentrating on giving the book a fourth draft would be a good discipline. If only I’d realised what was coming up!
The pandemic should have helped produce another novel of wide scope and similar length, except that ill health shut me down. I was diagnosed on the first day of Lockdown and emerged pretty much on the last day, although the aftershocks are still ongoing.
I’d had the idea for the new novel, ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’, which although separate would work as a sort of companion piece to the previous book, but the thought of writing it was daunting. My mistake was trying to make a start while I was still on morphine. The result was unsalvageable, even though it was well up to the standards of a couple of popular crime writers.
I waited for my body to reorient itself and heal a little before I started afresh. Luckily I had carried out the physical research before everything went crazy, and was able to start drafting. Most of the books in the series follow a particular style of crime writing, the exception being the procedural, a form that only really interests me as non-fiction.
The new book is the closest I’ll get to writing an espionage thriller. It follows the pattern of the others but chases down one single thread rather than following many at once. It’s a technique I was working to perfect in ‘There’s Something I Haven’t Told You’ (put out as the e-book ‘Little Boy Found’) and the upcoming ‘Hot Water’, which I actually started at the end, working backwards. I have future plans for a more extreme version of this style which I’m desperate to try out.
Appropriately for the 20th book, ‘London Bridge’ marks an end and a beginning. Its cast is continuing to morph and the unit’s circumstances are changing. It will be the last of the ‘gigantic conspiracy’-style themes that have dominated the last few volumes – there’s only so far you can take them without losing every last shred of credibility – and will hopefully lead to a new focus on character.
I’ll try to get dates for the paperbacks of ‘England’s Finest’ and ‘Oranges & Lemons’. Assuming the world hasn’t ended/ Trump hasn’t got back in / Nigel Farridge has finally been consigned to his own private hell, normal service should be operating here albeit a couple of months late.