The Changing London Of Bryant & May

Bryant and May

dracula ad 1972

The creation of every story is in some sense a reaction to the times. When I developed my detectives Bryant & May, London was a different place. In many ways it has changed out of all recognition from the days of ‘Full Dark House’, the first novel in the canon.

The wealth gap has widened and most Londoners can no longer afford to buy their own houses, an estimated 300,000 Russians having forced up prices (Manhattan is seizing back its loft apartments, laundered with dodgy Russia money), and the tourist season has spread from August to 365 days a year. The city has been commoditised and commercialised out of all recognition, but hand in hand with that, became the most tolerant country in Europe (see today’s shocking map in the Independent).

When the series began, men like Arthur Bryant were atypical but not rare. Well into the 1980s, banks shut while directors went grousing on the Glorious Twelfth. Now the directors are more likely to be French, American or Dutch, and don’t even honour weekends, let alone public holidays. What’s happened is that Bryant & May have gone from being unusual to being highly anachronistic. In one way this is good, as it gives them a unique outlook on life, but in another it requires that I create a suspension of disbelief for the reader to make the stories work.

This is the ‘Dracula AD.1972’ problem. In that Hammer film, the question was; how do you bring a period character forward into the present? Hammer cheated by starting the film superbly and using the King’s Road locations well, only to then hide the count away in a convenient Victorian church so that he didn’t have to interact with modern London in any way. I could take this approach, keeping Bryant & May in the backwaters of academia and never letting them deal with modern-day Londoners, but I don’t want to go down that route.

With ‘The Bleeding Heart’ now delivered and edited, I have to fulfil the final book in the B&M contract, and am looking at my options. I’ve had enough of conspiracies for a while, and fancy pitting them against a clever, lone madman. All suggestions of what you’d like are now open once more.

16 comments on “The Changing London Of Bryant & May”

  1. Mike Brough says:

    I’m not giving away any of my own plot lines 🙂 but what about a B&M where the possibility of a supernatural element is…ambiguous?

  2. Janet Wilson says:

    Thought it already was? That’s what I love about B&M- neither of them believe in the ‘conventional’ supernatural, and yet, and yet… The ‘other dimensional’ is always obtruding, as the Cosmic Joker cackles somewhere in the background. Thoroughly Fortean, and merely pointing up the High Strangeness that most people ignore every day.

  3. MattS says:

    Perhaps a madwoman who initially tugs at Bryant’s long-muffled heartstrings?

  4. Ken Murray says:

    Why not have B&M confront the new Europe, or even just the Germans. I mean they where there the first-time? Though I do like your notion of a criminal madman. However, they needn’t be human, as synthetic protagonist who functioned on pure, if twisted logic, would be fun?

  5. Diogenes says:

    What about B&M being pitted against a former PCU employee gone bad?

  6. Mim says:

    Aaah, I love Dracula 1972 AD.

    A clever, lone madman. As you feel they’re anachronistic, how about pitting them against the wrong sort of anachronism – someone with a repressive, ‘back to basics’ mentality? B&M, I feel, won’t mind if London moves on without them, because they love London. They let it be what it is, they don’t try to force it to be what they think it might be if they look very hard back through rose-tinted time goggles…

  7. Elizabeth Endicott says:

    A case that involves Alma Sorrowbridge’s Antigua.

  8. glasgow1975 says:

    Oh I like Mim’s suggestion, perhaps a rogue ConDem politician taking the cuts & austerity measures into his own hands in some ‘sink estate’ of benefit ‘scroungers’ and immigrants?

  9. J. Folgard says:

    I loved the way Arthur briefly interacted with June in ‘Plastic’, he was helpful yet peculiar at the same time. I enjoy your characters’ quirkiness, it’s what made me check out the novels several years ago (I like quirkiness in any sort of fiction, but particularly crime because it takes itself so seriously sometimes). The “clever lone madman” angle also appeals to me, as well as the “New Europe” thing -could other cities have come up with their own brand of PCU?

  10. Alan Morgan says:

    The Limehouse Ratboy 🙂

  11. Jon Masters says:

    Hmmm – perhaps Bryant needs his Moriarty , an evil alter-ego pensioner who uses just as much esoteric knowledge of London’s history to complete one final mad scheme before the end…..

  12. Dan Terrell says:

    Bryant should ever be played off against the young, not sat down among the old. And the boys having to navigatechanging London is good, too, gives you reason to write about the beloved contrasts and comparisons that are so much a part of a B&M novel.
    I don’t see them slowing down at all, so long as they have their memories of place and their mature view of London life and the day’s youth 6 to 60s).
    For an off-beat story, have that most excellent cat Crippen drag them into a case.
    “Well, it’s Crippen’s case isn’t it? The cat’s the one that found the young lady’s body behind the bin outside, and then brought in her pinkie with that distinctive nail art.”
    “And deposited it on the seat of your chair, Arthur.”
    “Well, you wouldn’t have followed it up, would you? That cat knows who’d take an interest.”
    Bryant & May and a Litter Bit of Murder?

  13. snowy says:

    Does it have to be a mad man? Why not a female nemesis, a spurned lover, long forgotten.

    [A pinch of Irene Adler, a smidge of Miss Haversham, and a big dollop of the first Mrs Rochester.]

    Having finally broken out of the attic, is very, very pissed off. And now she is going to destroy everbody that unwittingly failed to help her.

  14. C Falconer says:

    Having just read this week’s Private Eye (Nooks & Corners) and what is proposed to Leicester Square south side, and with reference to your feelings on the recent Cally Road “development”, perhaps whoever approves planning applications….

  15. admin says:

    Actually I was thinking I’ve had too many female murderers, so I’ve listened to your comments and have made my decision – more to follow when I’ve worked it through…

  16. Reuben says:

    I’m hoping it’ll be something very quirky, there’s not enough quirkiness in the world or so it seems to me.

    Failing that two men and their cat reenact Three Men In A Boat, basically Bryant’s guide to the river Thames.

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