My London Novels

Christopher Fowler
Tower Bridge It's often been suggested that London is a character in my novels and short stories, but when I conceive the plot for a novel, I have to make a conscious decision about how much of a role the location will play, with the result that some novels could actually be described as 'London novels', while the rest could quite easily be transposed to another major city. The key London ones are as follows. 'Roofworld' was specifically inspired by and designed around the roofscape of London, starting with Piccadilly Circus (a conscious kick-off point to what I hoped would be my career) and is almost entirely set in the city's exteriors - the tale of disaffected teens living on rooftops came so close to being filmed so many times that I lost count. 'Red Bride's key scene involves a woman running up the steps of Waterloo Station in a red dress, and has a specifically London feel. I've never reread the novel, so I don't really remember what it was about! 'Soho Black' was more specific, covering the tiny area that is London's nearest equivalent to an Old Quarter. When I wrote it, Soho had a very different character, and was largely populated by tailors, production companies and food stores. Now, most of the properties are short-lease cafes. The novel concerns the life and death of a film executive, and the peculiar character of the area, to which a few shreds can still be found clinging. 'Disturbia' was such a London book that my publisher made me carry out the tasks set in it - one an hour to be performed by the protagonist over the course of a single rainswept London night, on pain of death. This is one of the two books that take place mostly after dark in the city. 'Plastic' could almost be a companion piece to 'Disturbia'. Set along the Thames at night, the housewife heroine's travails (and the kinds of people she meets) mirror those of Vincent, the 'Disturbia' hero. 'Hellion', my YA novel, is very London-specific, being set in the kind of park and its backstreets with which all Londoners are familiar. I still like the book, even though the publishers screwed up its release. And of course, the Bryant & May novels are filled with London lore and locations - the next is set in the Tower of London and Clerkenwell.
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Janet Wilson (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 10:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A friend just gave me 'Walk the Lines' by Mark Mason- he walked the entire length of the Underground- overground- passing every station on the way. It has the feel of a magnificent obsession, but also suggests to me what I haven't missed- I've only ever ventured north of Paddington on the Bakerloo to go to Wembley drum store (with a drummer), and unless I visit Kensal Green cemy, that's the way it'll stay. As Mr Mason says,' It's an attitude, London. The shoppers at T.K. Maxx in Wembley aren't bothered about whether they live in London or not.' Further inspired by him and you, I lugged Mr Ackroyd's 'London The Biography' back from the library, but I'm not sure how far I'll get... :-/

Fiona (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 15:40

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I know this is very cheeky of me but I have an extra ticket to go and see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio stage play on Saturday 14 Sept in Hackney Empire. Neil Gaiman is going to be the voice of the book. Clearly not as good as Chris doing it but I'll do my best to cope. ; ) Does anyone want to go with me as my friends aren't interested or have already got tickets?

Helen Martin (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 18:45

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A quick trip to London!? I hope someone is able to say yes, Fiona.

snowy (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 20:15

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Fiona, having looked at who is in the cast, it will be fab!

[Just don't forget your towel. ;-) ]

Fiona (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 21:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks! I guess I can see if Hackney Empire can re-sell it. I think the show might be sold out so I might be able to get rid of it that way!

Yes, tempted to take a towel just in case.

Darragh Powell (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 21:44

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Roofworld was my first encounter with a Christopher Fowler novel and got me hooked for life! I was studying in central London at the time and I'd always take a quick glance up at the buildings as I walked from Embankment tube to Charing x to get the train home. You know, just in case!

Bangbang!! (not verified) Wed, 11/09/2013 - 23:14

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I've just finished reading Disturbia for the fifth or sixth time. I'm sure I remember Admin saying he wasn't keen on it but I, obviously, have always really enjoyed it. It was the book that first got me interested in London and its oddities. I got the first clue straight away but the rest intrigued me so much. It put me onto a whole new area of interest that has fascinated me ever since and made my wife's present buying so. much simpler! A bit of life changer really.

Peter Lee (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 09:19

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"Roofworld" was my entry point to the world of Fowler and I still love it and am glad I picked it up in that newsagents in Eccles one Saturday morning. Of the novels mentioned I couldn't take to "Red Bride" for some reason - read it twice and I can't remember a thing about it, apart from a scene where someone had the leg of a camera tripod pushed down their throat. Really couldn't warm to "Soho Black" at all - felt there was some kind of in-joke going on but I wasn't in on it, and it all felt rather disjointed. "Disturbia" was fun and I remember reading it in Cyprus one year, but I recall CF once described it as a bit like watching someone doing a crossword puzzle which seemed appropriate, and not coming from London the clues all went over my head, but I still enjoyed it and my girlfriend liked looking at the front cover for some reason. Afraid I wasn't keen on "Plastic", which I found a bit disappointing after all those years we'd been waiting to finally get to read it. Isn't "Rune" missing from the list though? Wasn't that a London novel, because it featured Bryant & May after all?

Darragh Powell (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 11:01

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^ 'Darkest Day' too. I really enjoyed that one (but then the story was updated in seventy-seven clocks).

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 16:40

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Come on! No one willing to take a chance on Fiona? Sheesh! The Hitchhiker really will be great, you know.
I didn't read Roofworld until long after I met Bryant and May, but I sure did like it.

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 16:41

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By the way - that photo is superb & kudos to the photographer who waited for the precisely right moment to take it.

Fiona (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 19:59

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Hee - don't worry Helen, I'm sure I'll find someone. I rang Hackney Empire and they said to turn up early as they may get someone wanting a ticket and mine is better than any they have left.

Fiona (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 20:00

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I liked Rune - one of my favs. Loved Disturbia too.

Janet Wilson (not verified) Thu, 12/09/2013 - 20:02

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Oh, duh- just 'got' foto of moon under Tower Bridge Olympic rings! Thanks, Helen.

pheeny (not verified) Fri, 13/09/2013 - 09:13

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I would be interested to know what admin thinks of the new series of Whitechapel which seems to be very much on Bryant and May territory (and none the worse for it)