Celebrating 20 E-Books: ‘Rune’


RUNEIt came as a shock to me to open my battered copy of ‘Rune’ and find that the world of Bryant & May was already fully formed in my second novel. The characters are developed (although the idea of Bryant having ‘dinner with a beautiful woman’ is harder to see now) and there’s mention of subsidiary characters, like Oswald Finch, the since-murdered coroner.

In my first novel, ‘Roofworld’, a detective inspector called Ian Hargreave had appeared, who had gone out with Janice Longbright, and the character of Butterworth was clearly an early version of Bimsley. It seems I was creating that world much further back than I had even realised; that’s the odd thing about writing. Some of it is learned, and some is entirely instinctive. This is from Chapter 5 of ‘Rune’. The writing is a little plainer, but the voices are clearly there, and I don’t think I was even conscious of doing it.

Bryant & May went on to be tested out in a number of other books before getting their own series.

‘YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY be serious about retiring, Arthur. Can you honestly see yourself pottering about the garden building trellises for the roses? Why, you’d be dead within a year.’

‘Don’t be offensive, John. I’m quite capable of enjoying retirement without turning into a vegetable. Millions of ordinary people do it.’

‘Ordinary people? Pah!’ John May pulled his coat a little tighter against the chill mist drifting across the water. ‘Ordinary people queue up in post offices with their pension books. They sit on park benches feeding the pigeons. They relive their memories of the Blitz. They don’t get up at half-past six in the morning to watch a body being fished out of a canal.’ He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and blew hard into it. ‘I know you too well. Your idea of a pleasurable evening is making dinner for a beautiful woman and describing the Brighton Trunk Murder to her while she eats it. You may as well face facts. You couldn’t let go if you wanted to.’

John knew that despite all protestations to the contrary, his colleague was at least two years past the force’s statutory retirement age, but as always he was careful not to raise the point. Arthur was forever threatening to retire. Nobody in the department took any notice of his complaints. Just lately, however, a new note of seriousness had begun to creep into his voice.
‘My work has always come first, John, you know that. I’ve never had time to do anything for myself.’ Arthur Bryant stepped across a flooded section of the towpath and stood beside his old friend. ‘The long hours come with the job, it’s something we all accept. There’s never been the chance for a proper home life. Why, I even had to cancel my wedding day.’

‘That was because war broke out, Arthur. You can’t blame the force for that.’



7 comments on “Celebrating 20 E-Books: ‘Rune’”

  1. Bill says:

    Perhaps three years ago I checked “Full Dark House” out of a local library; my first Fowler. I found myself fully immersed in your evocation of war-time London. I guess I was hooked by the description of air redolent with the odor of varnish; quite a touch, though I certainly didn’t have any knowledge of how Blitz-induced open air would have smelled. For some reason, I am taken by representations of that era; I don’t know why: I am not British, I never lived through that time; I surely don’t believe in reincarnation, and that I am accessing pre-transmigration memories!

    I appreciate how you got your characters out of tight plot spots which would otherwise have spelled the end of the series! More Bryant and May! More escape from the sublunar world!

  2. admin says:

    I often use aural histories to back up research, and the point about the smell of varnish came from talking to my father, who was fire-watching near St Paul’s Cathedral during the Blitz.

  3. Bill says:

    That must have been some job. I’ve seen footage, I think, of St. Paul’s nearly going up in flames. Was your father on duty that night?

  4. John Howard says:

    “The air redolent with varnish” brings back a time of a 12 year old helping his father with the DIY. I was the “apprentice” i.e: got all the rubbish jobs, blow torching the old paint and varnish ( can’t imagine a 12 year old being let loose with a blow torch these days, unless it was to finish off the creme brûlée ), then the preparatory sanding down. Dad would then step in and do the actual painting. Ah the good old days of child labour…. 🙂

  5. admin says:

    My father was most affected by the loss of the Paternoster Row bookshops that went up in flames. The desolate blank patch full of chain shops that stands there now is a testament to the city’s cultural failure.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I gave myself chemically induced pleurisy while refinishing a table. Lots of fresh air is well and good but urethane as well as varnish can make its presence felt.

  7. Ian Dalziel says:

    @ Helen
    – The Lady Varnishes?

    ;- )

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