Bryant & May: The Hidden References

Bryant and May

77 clocks

Planning the Bryant & May novels with a long overview, I carefully bury oblique references across the series. Only a crazy person would sit down with them and start teasing out all the connected strands that I tucked into the stories. Luckily, Ian Alexander Martin is mad as a badger, and seems intent on finding the hidden references in the stories. I’m quite pleased to note that he has still missed some of the more obscure clues though! Here’s just a sample of the stuff he sent me…
• Full Dark House
• “…but my harpsichord has suffered some minor bomb-damage.” This echoes a mention of a Yamaha Organ needing a tune-up in the modern story earlier.
• “What do you know of fear of open spaces?” This echoes April’s problem of 2003, plus the premonition that Maggie gets at the pub at the end of the book where she sees May’s future.
• “An un-exploded bomb. I’m seeing fire and screaming. An explosion, Arthur, a terrible explosion that I’m rather afraid causes the death of one of you.” This declaration of Maggie’s hides a secret echo that can only be explained at the end of the book.
• Water Room
• “On that occasion all railway traffic had been halted, and the shattered Fleet sewer had emptied its poisoned water into the train tunnels at King’s Cross.” In 63 years we’ll visit that waterway again, pursuing yet another mysterious son whose real identity isn’t known. Oddly, the son in WWII also escapes by subterranean waterway to avoid capture, making this a double-bonus reference.
• “It’s falling like stair rods out here.” Longbright uses the same expression as John May did in 1940, and also to get people to step out of a downpour, during the 2003 murder investigation.
• Seventy-Seven Clocks
• “Five days later, Longbright stood in a private, neglected section of Highgate Cemetery.” Ironically beside the family crypt where cocaine is found to be stored.
• Just after visiting Bryant’s flat “May walked down Charing Cross Road and cut through the back of the National Portrait Gallery…” where the painting was destroyed in December 1973.
• “Ever hear of the Club of Rome… Three Hundred Club… Olympians… Iluminati and the Cathars.” All of which suggest the Guild association, where we later end up.
• Ten-Second Staircase (the Leicester Square Vampire sub-plot)
• “We had a report last month of a man sucking blood out of a WREN in Leicester Square.” (that’s further mentioned by Maggie in 10-Second Staircase)
• “…the Man in Grey… appears in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane… three-cornered hat… riding cloak…” This ghost is mentioned again in the student’s murder case, as he resembles Dick Turpin.
• “Bryant listened as he cleaned out his pipe bowl with a pickle fork that he kept in his coat for just such a purpose.” Later he’ll use it solely for the starting of his Austin Mini.
• “He took an experimental swing with his left fist. ‘I put my geography teacher in the hospital…’ ” This comment of Biddle’s sets-up Bimsley’s unnatural strength when he knocked out his gym teacher in school and was told to stop boxing. The modern PC uses this ability to defend Myra and her sister from an ex-boyfriend in a café.
• White Corridor
• “She stuck a lethal-looking pin through her hat.” This hatpin is later used to stir Madeline to release Arthur in the tunnel in the middle of Dartmoor somewhere.
• Other Cases / Details
• “The runic curses that brought London to a stand-still.” Bryant & May’s first investigation was in ‘Rune’.
• “The corpse covered in butterflies.” This was the start of their investigation in ‘Soho Black’.
• “Years later, May found out that Bryant’s brother had died on a Thames barge…” Recurs in later books.
• “There was another mitigating circumstance that protected Bryant from conscription [in addition to being the lone existing offspring and having ‘a bit of a dicky pump’], but it was not something he felt comfortable speaking of.” Expanded in the future.
• Case of Greek Ambassador’s wife being disturbed by Italian gentleman putting a curse on her, but no reason is given. This could be an echo of the false thread of Greek curses within Full Dark House.
• Alma explains that someone might have got into Arthur’s flat with a skeleton key, but John explains one wouldn’t be necessary as the lock’s not difficult to open. “I’ve done it before now.” …oh yes? When and why?
• John May’s son is either ‘living in Canada’ and not speaking to him — as is stated in all the books, save for this one — or is recovering from years of addiction in a commune in Southern France . A later timeline reveals both to be correct.
• John May’s father apparently was a philanderer and John wishes to avoid the visitation of the sins of his father.
• Apparently there’s a full 142 major cases for the PCU from 1940–2003 (i.e.: ‘now’ in the time line)
• Pilot; murder; alibi involves being tied to a cow in Regent’s Park; also mentioned in Water Room somewhere. Madness.
• Continually referred to the Deptford Demon and its attack in a cinema.

8 comments on “Bryant & May: The Hidden References”

  1. I.A.M. says:

    It’s probably worth mentioning that these are all references found exclusively in Full Dark House, the bits in quotes being pulled from that book’s text. Each category seen in bold is the book to which the Full Dark House text refers.

    Ergo, if this is the sort of material found only in one title of the series, and more of this sort of research is done, anyone would be mad as a badger by the time they got it sorted.

    [c.f. Author’s typical state of being]

  2. Peter Lee says:

    I’d always thought the “Leicester Square Vampire” was a reference to the events described in the story “Lost In Leicester Square” in the “Bureau of Lost Souls” collection myself.

  3. Annie says:

    Page 131 Seventy Seven Clocks Sun’s competition mentions Ford Fiesta. Story set in 1973 Fiesta not produced until 1976

  4. admin says:

    That’s not a hidden reference – it’s a mistake!

  5. martin says:

    The mention of the 142 PCU cases reminds me very much of the teasers that Watson would keep dropping in Sherlock Holmes stories. Actually, the work done here reminds me of my annotated Sherlock Holmes, where they pin down actual railway schedules. Well done Ian!

  6. BuzzP says:

    it says above
    • Just after visiting Bryant’s flat “May walked down Charing Cross Road and cut through the back of the National Portrait Gallery…” where the painting was destroyed in December 1973.

    Wrong – it’s National Gallery in 1973 – different places, even if close by.

  7. BuzzP says:

    This one is for admin:

    …Raymond Land, the unit’s impatient and unforgiving new acting head. [emphasis added]
    “Full Dark House” – US paperback pg 15, referring to present day (2003)

    Hmmm, 30 years earlier (1973), in “Seventy-seven Clocks”: Land… had been appointed acting head of the PCU,… – US paperback pg 82

    Or is that a different Raymond Land?

  8. admin says:

    Thanks for the posts. Don’t worry, anything you say goes on the message boards – I have a policy of never censoring input (unless it’s mad).

    The genesis of Bryant & May is long, complicated and probably very boring, but I actually started using them between other novels a very long time ago, as far back as 1989 in ‘Rune’. The more I used them, the more I was subjected to ‘the Springfield effect’ – ie populating with a cast full of backstories. I withdrew one book and managed to marry up a lot of the timelines when the separate Bryant & May series took off (there are a number of non-canonical novels in which they appear, like ‘Soho Black’). A few timelines got left over – notably PC Butterworth and the old boss Ian Hargreaves, who lived with Janice Longbright. Raymond Land came in to replace him, and I thin it’s explained somewhere that he was working in the same department, but not directly responsible for it.
    I was in my old career for thirty years and left still only in my early fifties, so it’s feasible. Fair enough?

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