Backstories To The Bryant & May Books No.5

Christopher Fowler
10.Invisible The Memory Of Blood On a rainswept London night, the wealthy, unscrupulous Robert Kramer hosts a party in his penthouse just off Trafalgar Square. But something is wrong. The atmosphere is uncomfortable, the guests are on edge. And when Kramer's new young wife goes to check on their baby boy, she finds the nursery door locked from the inside. Breaking in, the Kramers are faced with an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor. It seems that young Noah Kramer was thrown from the building, but the child was strangled, and the marks of the puppet's hands are clearly on his throat…what's more, there was a witness. My first job took me past Pollock's Toy Museum every morning. It's a shop in Whitfield Street that still sells toy theatres, something for which I always had a fascination.
This book was born from my discovery that London once had a grand guignol theatre like the one in Paris — I even found the scripts for the sinister plays that were performed there, and thought it would make a great basis for a novel. The original French plays were built around shocking stage effects, but in England the censorious Lord Chamberlain would not allow such things on stage, so our scripts were written to include more mental cruelty (once again this shows that censors haven't a clue what they're doing). It was a great background for a novel, and one I'm not aware of having been used before. 'Even after several thousand pages of B&M spread over nine books, Fowler still leaves the reader desperate for more. This one is even more self-contained and enjoyable than usual. - The Londonist   The Invisible Code As Arthur Bryant's memoirs are published, he starts to feel his age. But a case is coming that will change his life. A young woman called Amy sits in a quiet London church, and is found dead in her pew after the service. But no-one has been near her. She has no marks on her body and the cause of death is unknown. The only odd thing is that she had a red cord tied around her left wrist. I had long wanted to write something partly set in a London church - after all, along with theatres, which they resemble, there an unchanging element of London life. Here I had the perfect setting of St Bride's Church, just off Fleet Street, which proved to have a fascinating history I could use. Soon I had Bryant & May investigating Hellfire clubs, class warfare, secret codes and the history of Bedlam. The trick was not to overload the narrative with history, but to balance the fun with genuinely intriguing facts, some of which were culled from books, others from my personal knowledge of the area. 'As before in these quirky narratives, the reader is taken on a fascinating (and often bizarre) journey which is notably difficult to read in short measures — the insidious Mr Fowler demands our total attention. Just remember that if you unwisely start reading the book two stops before your destination...' — Crimetime Magazine


agatha hamilton (not verified) Tue, 12/08/2014 - 19:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I liked this book particularly, and I like toy theatres too. I had a lovely one as a child with proper footlights and spotlights and a blue velvet curtain ( which mice ate later, cats asleep on the job). The small audience I managed to assemble used to complain because I always seem to lose the wolf at the crucial point in Little Red Riding Hood, so they went off to do other things and when they got back, they'd lost their grip on the plot, because I often changed the story and made the wolf win, as the old grandmother was so boring and deserved to be eaten.
Anyway, I love the historical background to your books, so I think we can't have too much of it, be it underground rivers, old theatres, or old pubs, and it wasn't until after several visits to the manuscript department of the IWM that I discovered, while being escorted there (as you know you have to be, they are stricter than the British Library), that it was the last reincarnation of Bedlam. I still think you could do a cracking one on the old prisons - I don't think you've covered that subject, have you? Unless in your last book which I am saving, as a treat.
By the way, I was really pleased to see your blog on A.P. Herbert - had forgotten him, but have now ordered the three books mentioned by you and Snowy.

Matt (not verified) Wed, 13/08/2014 - 06:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The old locked room mystery! Loved it. Not so ken on the invisible code though. I really liked the start with the kids and church. But found the book slightly out of my world, being one of those two up two down sort of people.

Off subject slightly , I noticed in my TV listing that BBC have New Tricks coming back next week, one of their stories is featuring a subterainian river in London, sound familiar? Have the writers been reading B&M for ideas?

Brooke Lynne (not verified) Sat, 16/08/2014 - 14:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I just finished reading "The Memory of Blood." My treat for next week will be to re-read it. The writing works and it's a joy to read, despite the fact that I hate puppets, especially Punch. But Madame Blavatsky is a gem.

I read "The Invisible Code" first. What a smart beginning and thrilling plot..thank you for treating your readers as intelligent human beings.