Bryant & May And Sod’s Law

Reading & Writing


Tourism figures are not adjusted according to the size of the country visited, but even so I was surprised by the findings from last year. Topping the list is still France, followed by the US and China, Spain, Italy, Turkey, then the UK and Germany (!). Rather than massively increasing tourism, the Olympics actually put a dampener on figures – they were 7% down – but the British spend far more overseas than the other way around, creating a deficit.

Did the endless government warnings about overcrowded trains put people off? Are tourism and sport non-compatible? It’s hard to say, but on Tuesday night this week I headed into town and couldn’t get on the first two trains because they were packed with tourists. London’s avoidable hotspots remain the same – the Piccadilly line from Harrods to Holborn is the worst, although I am mystified as to why anyone would visit Knightsbridge.

This morning I attempted to board three trains, no chance in the rush hour, and sheer weight of numbers ending up forcing me to another station. Yet last night the West End was deserted – at any one time it’s possible for factors to change the number of people  in London by vast amounts. That it doesn’t, and nobody gets trampled to death, is down to the law of averages.

This was the driving force behind my first Bryant & May outing, ‘Rune’, which was predicated on the idea that the law could be upset by an external force, causing unlikely disasters to occur. This ‘difficult second novel’ fared poorly. It was dark, pumped full of my research results, wayward. I could have called the book ‘Bryant & May And Sods’ Law’. Back then the detectives investigated more supernatural cases, appearing in four early books before I retired them.

When I thought about their reinvention, I realised what needed taking out. I had been so excited by the whole idea of tackling the crime genre that I’d thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. Having too much enthusiasm can be as bad as having too little. This refining process is still ongoing. You listen to readers and discover if there’s a common theme in what they like or dislike, then adapt. ‘Rune’ was neither one thing nor the other – not quite a crime novel, not quite a supernatural thriller. Despite this, it reprinted several times with different covers. I’ve learned my lesson now, and write in different strands of books instead of trying to cram everything into one.

19 comments on “Bryant & May And Sod’s Law”

  1. Wayne says:

    It’s interesting reading your thoughts about Rune, I disagree with you about it being neither one thing or another, I liked the book a great deal and found it hard to put down. It was finding B&M in these pages that prompted me to buy more of your Books. Personally I like the more unusual supernatural elements to their cases.

  2. Peter Lee says:

    I loved “Rune” too. The only one of your books that did feel a bit all over the place & which despite reading several times I’ve still not grown to like is “Soho Black”.

  3. admin says:

    Oddly enough, ‘Soho Black’ is a completely true story if you know how to read it right; there’s a key to it that changes the whole thing, but I think I made it slightly too oblique for readers to instantly catch. The only part I regret adding – to bulk the length at my publisher’s request – was the bit about Midas.

  4. Peter Lee says:

    Now you can’t leave it like that, not telling us what the key is…

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    I also liked “Rune” and didn’t feel it was packed. I, too, would like the key to “Soho Black” which was, yes, a bit long, but I had trouble getting into the lead character.
    Neither this nor that is what many great books are and the stronger for being so. Although, usually one element must take over toward the end in order for there to be a resolution. May I suggest you take care when cutting back, as giving the readers what they want may not actually keep readers. Hard to believe, but much of what they want is a bit like too much chocolate – yes, that happens.

  6. snowy says:

    ‘Rune’ was the first CF book I read, ages ago. I was siezed by the sheer ‘WTF-ery’ of the unfolding tale. It has an anarchic charm all of it’s own.

  7. Bob Low says:

    I haven’t read ”Soho Black” since it came out, but I remember thinking at the time that it was quite a strikingly different book from Admin-some of the mythic writing about London reminded me of Michael Moorcock, in a good way. The novel where I first made the acquaintance of Bryant and May was ”Darkest Day”, and I’d love to see that one back in print, as my paperback copy went astray, several house moves ago!

  8. Louise Brew says:

    The First Christopher Fowler book I read was ‘Soho Black’ The only reason I bought it, was the title, at the time I lived in Soho (Great Windmill Street), and the book was spot on! I was even sure I could identify some of the characters. Since then, I am hooked! The Bryant & May books, I read over and over again. The attention to detail is suberb! Have to admit, I did not enjoy books such as ‘Breathe’.

  9. admin says:

    ‘Breathe’ is a funny one – very much a ‘boys’ book’, like ‘Hell Train’ – I do think novels often divide into genders. ‘Breathe’ and ‘Hell Train’ are very much for guys who catalogue their movies alphabetically. Er, like me.

  10. admin says:

    Thanks Snowy – I’m using WTF-ery as my new favourite word.

  11. Steve says:

    Don’t actually think I’ve ever read any Admin-ery I haven’t liked. I do however see, over the years, a maturation of style; the growth is apparent. At least to me.

  12. Wayne says:

    Oh Yeah Soho Black, I too once worked in the soho area and found the book fantastic to take those places and change them into fiction… Sorry I forget its a true story, Makes me kind of nervy that!!!!

  13. John Howard says:

    Breathe I liked, in fact i’m sure that I have mentioned that before. Steve has hit it on the nail for most of us I think and I take from Dan’s comments something to the same effect. Just keep on doing what you do because that’s why we buy your books. It does’t harm things if we can put the odd tweak to the wheel now and again, of course.

    As Winston said; Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics… Can be made to say most things if you know how to slant them.

    ANYWAY – The most important thing is – MY COPY OF “THE CASEBOOK…..” ARRIVED ON FRIDAY – Hooorah.

  14. snowy says:


    Bonus points are available if you can get it into a quote on somebody else’s book jacket.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    Is the fact that I am female the reason why I have difficulty getting into Hell Train?

  16. Steve says:

    Really Helen? You mean they didn’t accept your ticket and you think they were being discriminatory because you’re a woman? Heavens, I’m shocked I tell you, shocked!

  17. jan says:

    I thought the dreadful “Red Bride” was your 2nd novel well i never i like Rune its a gr8 book one of your best

  18. Peter Lee says:

    Ah “Red Bride” – I keep forgetting that one. Found that one oddly flat.

    Oh, and my “Casebook” arrived on Friday – copy no.7 apparently! Gutted about the big printing error in the character biographies though.

  19. Dave Cahill says:

    In a previous job there was a lot of down time, where effectively we (there was about 10 of us) wouldn’t have anything to do for days or sometimes a fortnight. This was pre-internet, so we came up with a scheme – we each put in a pound and took the kitty across the road from the office where there was a second hand bookstore. We gave the owner the money and the next day he gave us a box of paperbacks. Once they were read, we’d collect a few more quid and trade in the previously bought books for another box. One of the books we got was Roofworld, the first Christopher Fowler book I ever read, which I loved and swiftly purloined (I can see from where I’m typing actually). The next week I went into Easons (basically the Irish WH Smiths) where I saw another Fowler title – Rune, the first of Christophers books that I bought new, and to this day, still my favourite

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