Are Bryant & May Becoming Fashionable?

Bryant and May

burning man

An article in today’s Observer by Sarah Hughes staggered me a bit this morning. Newspapers love to look for two snowstorms and suggest the next big thing will be the Ice Age, but the idea that ‘cosies’ are the hot new thing (nice coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s first book) is a bit of a stretch.

The argument is based on the fact that franchises from Christie and Ngaio Marsh are being continued by modern writers, and suggests that the next big thing will be modernised Golden Age stories. Which I can’t help feeling I’ve already been doing for the past 17 years. In that time I’ve had my Golden Age detectives Bryant & May investigate cases involving refugees, corrupt politicians, banking scandals, class warfare.

In a way Ms Hughes is right, in that the British Library imprints (discussed elsewhere on this site) have proven surprisingly successful. But nostalgia seems to be the bigger part of the draw so far rather than modernisation. Personally I’d love to see other authors do what I’m doing; I wouldn’t feel as if I’m ploughing such a lonely furrow then!

Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury, says that ‘There are definite challenges for modern authors. These days, crime writers rely a lot on police procedurals and technology, and to write a good golden age novel you really have to unlearn those things and embrace the disciplines of the golden age, which really centre around plot and character.’

Thanks for the tip, Alexandra, I’ll bear it in mind. It takes a long time to become an ingenue.


6 comments on “Are Bryant & May Becoming Fashionable?”

  1. John Howard says:

    Christopher Fowler..? Who he.? (I find it a bit weird that I have been reading all these novels that obviously don’t exist in AP’s world).

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Your detectives work in the modern world, dealing with modern problems. It’s only the detectives who are Golden Age. People read those older novels because the problems are of that other time and we know where to stand on the issues of the thirties and forties. We know that Naziism is not an answer to anything, that communist principles are not as scary as people thought then and that having a child out of wedlock will not bring about the downfall of civilisation. It makes for a more relaxing read. Bryant and May ask us to address today’s problems, which are the same but different.

  3. Ken Mann says:

    Some detectives are already golden age in the way they think and work. Morse is not a policeman, he is a gentleman sleuth who just happens to have a warrant card. The cops in “Broadchurch” neglected to look up any of their suspects on the police national computer and found out the criminal records of some of them from the press. The existence of mobile phones and airwave radios remains a trial for authors who need to isolate their heroes from help. Although period detail is nice what I mainly look for in “golden age” writers is wit, because most modern authors (present company excepted) seem to regard that as optional. There are simply more stories to be had than murders committed by sex traffickers solved by depressive detectives staring out to sea.

  4. Brooke says:

    Christie and Sayers excepted, “Golden Age” writers were actually capable of writing, with wit or not. The writing is what puts B&M over the top.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Brooke, by excepting Christie and Sayers are you meaning that they can’t (couldn’t) write?

  6. John Griffin says:

    Christie could write very well, especially in her middle age. Her short stories I find the best. By contrast I always found Sayers somewhat prolix.

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