Killing The Black Dog

Great Britain


Black dog

Writers are required to have a somewhat raised level of sensitivity. It’s in the job description. The upside is that it can massively improve the quality of your work. The downside is the Black Dog.

It’s hard to explain depressive bouts to others. I once believed there was no such thing, and was on Sid James’ side when he gave advice to Bill Kerr in Hancock’s Half Hour; ‘Pull yourself together, you ratbag.’ When I was 41 a catastrophic, surreal series of events triggered a change. I lost five stone and slept for the best part of a year.

Why on earth would a writer of minor importance or interest to anyone beyond a small band of book-lovers be driven to express political opinions online? I did this week, and was trolled into a low mood. (To place this in context, on Friday night my partner suffered a gruelling 22-hour journey that should have taken 4 hours, then was mugged. His reaction; a shrug and ‘It happens’.)

This was a strange, disillusioning week in the UK anyway. Some of my fellow writers have been in fine opinionated form (Philip Pullman’s splenetic piece was remarkable, here), but many said not one word for fear of damaging their sales.

Then I read about the concept of Cognitive Democracy. There’s a complex piece here about the upside of divisive argument, including the idea that diversity of viewpoints helps groups find better solutions. Unfortunately, Cognitive Democracy requires the inputting of truthful data, and the referendum was full of misinformation.


Leave voters were told there would be fewer migrants (retracted), better NHS funding (retracted), more jobs (untrue) and benefits for poor communities (mere wishful thinking). On Friday many corporations held emergency meetings about downsizing or relocating, with several of my friends badly affected.

Behind all the name-calling and blame-throwing it was hard not to feel that many decent, reasonable British people who voted democratically in order to be heard were manipulated and lied to by the self-serving press and politicians. Betrayed by Labour, ignored by Tories, they were backed into a corner – and bit back. They failed to realise that it wasn’t a protest vote but an economic decision.

The disadvantaged cannot have their voices silenced by government

It needs to be understood and accepted that half the country was angry. Whether they’ll be happy now that they’ve won remains to be seen, but we shouldn’t feel schadenfreude if they don’t. I can’t believe anyone wants to reverse decades of tolerance and replace it with extremism. But the disadvantaged cannot have their voices simply silenced by government. It’s a lesson Johnson & co will do well to show they have learned in the coming hardships.

Then there was the matter of what to do about my own job. Yes, it’s just fiction and to quote Samuel Johnson No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money, but I care about what I do, as anyone should whatever their work, and I needed to sort this out.

The answer was obvious, in my mystery novels at least. Bryant & May are thorns in the side of the establishment. So they’ll continue to be just that. In the next book, ‘Wild Chamber’ I’m upping the ante again, although at his rate I’ll soon have them blowing up the Houses of Parliament (I’m starting to understand the mentality of Guido Fawkes). The detectives always wonkily reflected my views, although I’m careful never to push subtext. There will also be a new crime series which will allow me to give full rein to darker ideas. You have been warned.

Meanwhile, dog be dead, it’s onwards and upwards and back to business.

17 comments on “Killing The Black Dog”

  1. Jo W says:

    Hi,Chris,so glad you’re here for us again. But bad news about Peter, was he hurt? I wish him and you well and look forward to more of your books and words of wisdom. 😉

  2. Rh says:

    At last some good news today! More power to your elbow.

  3. Ness says:

    The key is keeping your powder dry.

  4. admin says:

    Thanks – Pete’s OK, doesn’t even care. Teflon Man.

  5. Steve says:

    Hi Chris
    It’s good to hear you fighting back. And also that you have a strong partner.
    If you can get hold of Saturday’s Times still, there are opinion pieces by Matthew Parris and Janice Turner, both of which I think are very much worth reading. Matthew Parris on what happens next, and Janice Turner on why we are where we are. I truly recommend both these pieces.
    On the cognitive democracy front, I think it’s clear that most people do not understand the ins and outs of europe, its governance, its cashflows. But I think they will vote the same way again if asked again, unless they see important changes first. I think you should not underestimate the strength of feeling. If you look at the Guardian map, London and the M4 corridor voted for Europe. Outside of this, the EU is pretty much universally rejected in England and Wales; in fact, it wouldn’t be too much to call it a wipe-out. And I think thIs needs to be in the first line respected not condemned. These people are not all idiots but the core population of England and Wales.
    As far as trollng etc, it’s so much easier to troll than to debate. Especially in 140 characters. It’s a shame but social media does exacerbate the human tendency to group into self-agreeing groups be they guardian readers or ukip voters or even isis, who then only interact internally with flattery and externally with abuse. But a strong democracy entails true debate with people with whom you disagree.
    Hope this was of interest 🙂 Steve

  6. Brooke says:

    Very relieved that your partner was relatively unharmed and thank you for letting us know.

    You may find writings of others helpful right now…Wise people who have encountered depression–from Dante to Vaclav Havel and so on. As an executive coach, I have noticed clients suffer depression when their vocation, passion for life, encounters the ugly reality of the world (evil, lies, war) and their normal defenses are impaired.

    People who recovered tell me you have to go down to get through to the other side, where you know what is real and important– namely that you are doing what your talent says you must do. That’s the lesson of the fairy tales, legends, and pretend tales like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones. Only no one in their right minds wants to make that kind of journey but some of us, particularly those with gifts like you, do.

    Thanks for note on Cognitive Democracy. It’s a wide-spread theory in the business world, especially among my organizational behavior and leadership development colleagues. I’m writing a piece for my blog now on why cognitive democracy rarely works and why leaders have to work very hard to set the conditions to make it work–certainly in the business world and it doesn’t happen at all in the political world.

    Best wishes,

  7. Brian Evans says:

    I’m so glad you are both OK. Your partner has been through a terrible ordeal.
    Glad to hear there will be more books.

  8. Adam says:

    Very pleased that B&M are continuing, and that you have a mentally tough partner! This horrible situation has split families, friends and almost every demographic group that you can think of. I’m going to feel very raw for a long time, but hoping against hope that something good will come out of this chaos. No idea what that is yet. On a lighter note, I discovered the ‘Burglar’ books of Lawrence Block the other day and have immersed myself in 1970s New York; fantastic stuff (and it looks like there are quite a few in the series).

  9. AC says:

    As depressing as it is, I have a fearful feeling that I will be even more depressed with the outcome of our elections this November because I can’t think of two more loathsome people to choose from. I’m glad Bryant and May will continue. I want, one day, to visit all the strange and esoteric London sites Bryant talks about.

  10. Roger says:

    I don’t think “the disadvantaged” are happy and I don’t think they think they’ve won. More “we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet” – a reminder that for all of the proclamations about the world that lies before us there are people without satisfying or interesting jobs or hope. They were given the chance to kick their rulers and they took it. Not much revenge, but all they could get.
    Meanwhile, keep writing: people are amused and entertained by your books and anything which helps make life bearable is good in itself. Bryant & May may be thorns in the side of the Establishment, but at least the Establishment knows they are there and is affected by them. To the Esablishment many of the people of Englsnd are instances of “that article” as the duke of Welington put it.

  11. Sandra Nelson says:

    My very dear sir,
    I myself have had to wrestle the large , dark canine. Drugs and therapy, thank God. I am in Canada, and have been appalled at what has transpired in England. I can only shake my head and sigh mournfully. Looking in, we can see how horrendously people were lied to. Easy for us, objective viewpoints are easy. But so many desperately hoped it would be all Shangri-la and champagne. Nope. The phrase “justifiable homicide” leaps to mind. Hmmm?
    I do enjoy your Bryant & May books, and am wiggly with delight at the thought of more coming. You know how to keep a middle aged ODSP recipient happy.
    Regards to you and yours,
    Sandra Nelson

  12. Terenzio says:

    Idiot is a relative term. It’s like calling everybody stupid. There’s no point. I would say the people who voted Leave were part of three groups 1) ill informed on the structure of the EU including benefits and costs 2) racists (yes this was about immigration and about a bunch of white English folk who don’t like “others”) 3) lied to with propaganda, But the problem with the last one. These people are old enough (they’re not naive 20s year olds who might not realize politicians lie) to know to doubt or at least question the veracity of campaign promises, facts and statements..or at least they should. The Remain side presented a rational argument with supporting facts. Michael Gove…Leave camp…said we are tired of the “experts”. Not that they can’t get it wrong. But again you look at all the evidence and carefully weight the pros and cons. Nigel Farage was being honest when he said, campaign promises (specifically the 350 million going to the NHS) are just that…”campaign promises”. In other words not guarantees. People should also have questioned the amount. Had they actually took an interest in the EU budget and the U.K.s contribution they were have known some of that money comes back to the country which is used for the good of the community. I’m not British so I didn’t know the ins and outs, but I made a statement and was corrected. I was mistaken, however, now I’m better informed. If I were a citizen I should definitely take an interest in the affairs of my country. And what’s sad is some of these people probably do have legitimate concerns. For example, Turkey joining the EU. I’ve been to Turkey and found the people friendly, but consideting their government I would not want them to be part of any Union I belong to. But if people checked their info they would know a member state has the right to reject an applicant who wants to join the EU. Now if the U.K. is not a member state they won’t be able to stop Turkey from joining. And if the U.K. wants a trade agreement like the one between the EU and Swiss (Boris mentioned this) they are going to have to follow the rules and regulations of the EU including the free movement of its citizens. So better or worse off? And this anger towards immigrants is misplaced. Most are hard working people who take crap low paying jobs that most people wouldn’t even consider. As far as depressing wages, there are proven studies that there is some effect on wages but it’s minimal. In cities like London they help drive the economy by filling positions that would be hard to fill otherwise. The problems with jobs and the economy is mainly the fault of globalization and multinationals who only care about profits and the cheapest place to manufacture. Dyson moved manufacturing to Asia in the early 2000s because it was cheaper. However, I believe there have been a few British companies who have moved to Poland and Eastern Europe for cheap labor. At the same, there have probably been companies that moved to the U.K. For example the Chinese auto company that owns the black London cab company is building a new factory in the U.K. They will be hiring more people. It’s a shame that’s it’s not a British company anymore, but that’s just the way it is. Not long ago I bought some shirts in Rome. The salesperson explained the material was Italian but they were made in Eastern Europe due to labor costs. So it happens everywhere. In addition people/consumers want and have come to expect cheaper prices. What I find reprehensible is in this whole fiasco it seems Boris Johnson didn’t expect and probably didn’t want Leave campaign to win. His actions were purely based on political aspirations. He didn’t believe the EU was really that bad nor that the U.K. would be better off out. I also find it totally disheartening the Leave campaign did not have a plan to govern the country once they left the EU. Were they just going to wing it and hope for the best?? As far as respecting people’s right to vote…fine, but I don’t have to respect them as responsible citizens and decent human beings. Both of reach I think the Leave campaign lacks. Social media probably hasn’t exacerbated human tendency to group with those with similar views/attitudes. It just makes it glaringly obvious our behavior or tendencies. Without social media we would still act the same. We did it before with the newspapers/magazines we bought. The people we associated with and hung out with. In a pub or bar…who do we gravitate to..those with similar views or dissimilar views? We tend prefer to be around people who think and act like us. What’s really responsible for all the nastiness is politics. They’ve got nasty again. This happens every now and then. We are in one of those cycles. In the United it started with Nixon in the 1970s with is southern strategy, culminated with the election of Reagan with his welfare queen with 10 or whatever children driving in her pink Cadillac to the welfare office to pickup her check. They didn’t say she was black but everyone knew she was. Sadly I’ve been reading about the increase in hate crimes and attacks against the “other” in the U.K. since the referendum. Including a photo of one asshole…I think he was in London with a tee-shirt that said something like, We Voted Leave..Now Go or sone other claptrap. Some people just need to hate and blame others. Someone once said, sometimes things need to get worse in order to get better. Hopefully things won’t get too bad.

    Well on that note….À bientôt….the one in the gorgeous purpose dressing gown and lively velvet slippers. I do sincerely believe there are more good people in the world. It’s just the bad ones seem to get all the publicity. I shall now read something light and entertaining to escape from the world for a little while.

  13. Wayne Mook says:

    It’s true the old and the non university areas voted out, also those who had the strongest expression of Englishness, whatever that entails.

    Being from a poor background, still poor and living in a poor area thanks for the comments, to make it happier I work in a low paid government job, so I really am due to suffer. I did vote remain, and Manchester voted remain(my bit Trafford voted remain too. W
    hat Salford was thinking they only know.), in fact most of the big cities did, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle even Leeds, the odd one out was Birmingham, the Midlands really seem to want out. Yorkshire’s attitude I’m not surprised at, Sheffield good luck to you, but at least York, Leeds & Harrogate thought like we did, the big hubs on the M62 did the same as the M4 corridor. Most rural areas voted out, why? Do they really think that can get a better deal then French farmers can from Brussels? Bus routes and other subsidies? Plus it wasn’t only poor areas, Cheshire is one of the richest areas and they voted out, quite a few home counties did too.

    To be honest I’m in my late forties and the way we older generation voted is what really depresses me. I feel we’ve really let the young down, it was the generation before mine that let Major in and so did the for the last Left leaning Labour party, but know it’s my generation as well that has now sunk the young. Sorry kids.

    At least we may not be dragged into Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US, now that really does look damaging, although it’s still not settled, but this could really have done for the NHS the way it’s shaping up. Lord Owen, remember him, gave dire warnings about it. I studied the NAFTA agreement years ago and that had some nasty effects on the Canadian health care system, but it also allowed the Mexicans to trade more with Cuba. There not been much mention of TTIP, but it’s one of those big trade agreements that could be used in many ways.

    I don’t blame Corbyn (Democracy & big business in the EU has always been a thorny issue esp for the Left, hopefully this vote will help the rest of Europe shape the EU into a more democratic body, our loss will be their gain.), where were the rest, I heard Kahn but what about Hilary Benn, if he had put in as much about destroying the Labour party as the remain campaign maybe things would have been different (so much for a democratically elected leader, Mr. Benn.) more was heard of Gisela Stuart leave campaigner from Labour, but nobody from the benches has said much about that.

    Still at least Giddy Osborne looks like he won’t become Tory leader and so PM, small mercies.

    As a remainer I think we should respect the vote (Unlike Benn I do respect a democratic vote.), there were plenty of reasons people vote. The obvious one is for many years the papers have been doing down the EU and blaming migrants, this was hard to over come, and Boris did have an effect, especially in middle England. After all he got you Londoners to vote for him, although he was against newt boy.

    Glad to hear your other half has recovered well Chris, and as they say, don’t let the baskets get you down, just think of them as hanging baskets.

    Well lets stay calm and see what the future brings us, as a smaller fish maybe we’ll be able to stay out of wars in future.


  14. Steve says:

    Some of us need a continuous input of chemicals – like say mirtazapine and alprazolam – to keep the Dog muzzled. Glad to hear you’ve come out the other side, and looking forward to more B&M adventures.

  15. Trace Turner says:

    I keep thinking that there is a great story plot in this Brexit mess. Perhaps Britain was infiltrated by a foreign government (Russia, China, Switzerland, take your pick) to foment dissatisfaction and get the country out of the EU and causing a major upset in world markets. And Why? Again take your pick of reasons. Currency manipulation, bursting property values in London, reducing UK financial market power…
    And whatever the reason, all helped by people foolish enough to believe what a politician tells them.
    Here is the back story for a book about a dystopian society.
    And don’t let the internet trolls get you down.

  16. Julie says:

    The dog it was that died, and blowing up parliament gets my vote, I can see them doing it, so clearly!

  17. Anji says:

    I too suffer from occasional visits from The Black Dog, am extremely sensitive to negativity and my mood was one of grief,anger and complete dismay at the result of the referendum… to the extent that I had no wish to function and could not sleep for a few days. My savng grace is the love of and for my dogs, the peaceful sanctuary of my garden and nature and the love of immersing myself in books which take away the sometimes painful reality of existence. I love everythimg you have written, even the darker stuff…perversely.

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