Title

What Makes A Bryant & May?

Christopher Fowler
Kenneth Williams: 'Raining again, I see.' Tony Hancock: (After a considerable pause) 'Oh, so that's what's making the roads wet.' I felt less horrible than normal, I told myself this morning. Today was the day I'd go for a walk. Now, this is a big deal for me. The challenge starts when I leave the flat and negotiate two flights of stairs to reach the lift. But I had an incentive; there are dozens of bookshops within walking distance; I live on the edge of Bloomsbury, for heaven's sake. Today, however, it was raining, not the usual London rainfall that's more like the heavy damp you get in caravans but a sideways-gale that would blow the nuts off a squirrel. The broken paving stones of King's Cross never got over being snubbed for national heritage status and have become lake-filled sculpture parks, not ideal when you're walking with the delicacy of Ripley stepping through a minefield of alien pods. Unfolding my sword-stick and clutching my husband's arm I launch myself across the street and encounter another problem. Pete has such long legs that he resembles one of the machines in War of the Worlds, and quickly strides ahead of me. He sees the problem when he turns to find me stretched like a rubber band between himself and the lamp-post. I try to haul him back but he's like a Labrador almost at the park, claws scratching on the paving stones, retching and gasping and strangling himself with his collar. I live in the kind of neighbourhood where - to quote Victoria Wood - you can buy a stripped pine fireplace at four in the morning. All my immediate kimchi, pork and shrimp in a boa-bun needs are catered for. This contrasts with country cafés: 'A tea and a scone, please.' 'Scones finished at three.' 'But I can see them right there behind the glass, glistening with cream and strawberry jam.' 'Yes. Scones finished at three.' The Bryant & May characters are shaped by their surroundings. Given the number of eras they've lived through, an awful lot has left its mark on them, and each complements or contradicts what went before. This leaves Mr Bryant with an excess of unusable knowledge that he somehow manages to use up. And his methods are my methods. When you see James Bond in Rio de Janeiro, he was probably not meant to be there. The locations are scouted long in advance so if Monte Carlo doesn't make it into this film, it'll be in the next one. There's no point in letting all that great research go to waste, which is why over-qualified bookshop assistants are happy to discuss Galileo's Paradox of the Infinite with you or why Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' can rationally discourse upon the death of religion without us having our heads cut off. We are rationalists, but fully prepared to discuss a vast range of big ideas without turning into monsters. This gold seed buried deep in our hearts makes for mavericks, creating heroes like Stuart Macrae, whose wartime plans to reduce deaths involved cereal bowls, jelly and magnets. Thus it is with Bryant and May. Arthur has no real beef with the Metropolitan Police, but uses his knowledge in ways they would never think of. The closest anyone else has got to this tone of crime fiction is probably Mick Herron's 'Slow Horses', although they're immeasurably aided by the casting in their TV incarnation (as always, Gary Oldman's grubby performance proves a revelation). I love these crime stories because they're conducted the right way around; character, situation, crime, consequences. And this little piece is an example of the process; from rain you can barely see to jelly and magnets.
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Comments

tony williams (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 15:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

And such a neat process it is as well. And ‘Slow Horses’ did resonate with me and BnM. Use of location

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 15:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If this is an example of the random, etc. posting bring it on! I laughed loudly at the image of Pete as a Labrador, strangling himself with his leash and you got out, in spite of the weather. Good, even if you had to have a serious lie-down when you got back.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 16:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My mum was disabled when I was growing up, having had a spinal issue that caused her right leg to be weak and numb. She always complained about how we walked when we were walking with her - stepping in front of her, walking to fast, walking in less than straight lines. It's only in recent years, since I've been a little unsteady myself, that I realise it's a real skill to just walk beside someone who is less than nimble on their feet. Walking with my husband can be frustrating, for similar reasons to what you described and for all the same reasons as my mum found difficult. Yet I'm still in two minds about whether to bother bringing it up.

Jamie S (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 16:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jackson Lamb and Arthur Bryant - cousins surely? Irascible, sharp tongue, sharper wit, and an uncanny knack of popping up behind the crim at just the right moment, seemingly from nowhere.

Valerie Weber (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 16:54

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Did you know that Gary Oldman grew up and was educated quite near us - he went to West Greenwich Boys' School. Him an Oscar-winning actor, you a brilliant write. Me - well, just me!

Peter T (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 16:54

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I understand the walking problem. I help LOML's mother upstairs every night. My left hand holds her right and my right goes under ger arm to give a gentle lift. Meanwhile, LOML scampers around, more like a Terrier than a Labrador.

Before life was interrupted by cold, rain, and Yuletide, and I could run in the fields, I met a woman walking a young Labrador. Roles had reversed with human pulling the unfortunate, exhausted looking canine. I stopped to suggest the dog may well suffer from thyroid deficiency – easily resolved with inexpensive pills, but she really didn’t want to know.

I guess the moral of all this is that an insensitive but logical Aspie may be more helpful, effectively more considerate, than an empathetic neuro-typical.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 17:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Many thanks for this! At the moment it has stopped raining where I live in California after another night of high winds and downpour. At least this time Mother Nature left out the thunderstorms. The sun may come out late this afternoon and last for about two hours before it gets grey and dark and wet again. Like Helen, I chuckled through your description of Pete as a Labrador straining at the leash. Lastly thank you for the photo. It was nice to see yourself. I assume that you didn't get to have a scone. Rules!!!

Colin (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 17:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading the blog, always different, always thought provoking and nearly always gets me googling something mentioned. And I bet nobody can guess what the next entry will be about! Cheers Chris

Ace (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 22:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sounds like Pete is in need of some remedial training. Needs to learn to heel. Off the Leash Husband Training might be just the ticket. Btw --- re: your reference to Colonel Stuart Macrae, he wrote 'Winston Churchill's Toyshop: The Inside Story of Military Intelligence.' a fascinating 'tell-all' about MD1, one of those sub rosa WWII 'back rooms' of which Churchill was so fond and which Macrae founded. His personal work and that of a team of talented engineers created unusual weapons 'to order' for the Resistance, commandos and other special operations’ groups in short order and were accountable directly to Churchill, making them pariahs to the military establishment and the civil service. An informative and entertaining read, even if you're not particularly interested in WWII or secret/unconventional weapons development.

Brooke (not verified) Mon, 09/01/2023 - 23:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

a walk plus an hilarious post. Well done you.

Ian Mason (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 00:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've met "The Hubby" and I've seen Barbara Woodhouse in action.

The idea of the two meeting with the object of getting Hubby to learn to properly walk to heal tickles me pink.

Mary Horrocks (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 05:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was thinking of you only this morning as I was ironing. I loved the elasticated you, as I have a very energetic Murray River Retriever and have been brought up sharp as a spot needs immediate investigation. How imperious are dogs, eh?

I finished London Bridge is Falling Down over Christmas and it made me cry at the end, and Film Freak yesterday that made me yell with laughter.

Many more walks for you.

Jo W (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 06:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for that, Chris, it was a real laugh out loud that we needed. An afternoon spent going round in circles trying to get back onto internet banking was not conducive to marital harmony, in fact it could have caused a rift in the space time continuum. Perhaps we should have tried the magnets and jelly?
Well done on your outing, hope you slept well after that? I’m stuck now with the picture of Pete with the Martian war machines’ legs.

Robert Low (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 08:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"The broken paving stones of King’s Cross never got over being snubbed for national heritage status and have become lake-filled sculpture parks, not ideal when you’re walking with the delicacy of Ripley stepping through a minefield of alien pods." If there is a prize for Sentence of the Year, this should definitely be an early nominee.

E Bush (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 11:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I second Robert Low's nomination for Sentence of the Year. What a fantastic image!

So good to know you made it out for your walk. And then had the energy to write this blog.

Gemma Marks (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 15:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Love Mick Herron’s Slow Horses and Jackson Lamb? Interested in real spies like Kim Philby, John le Carré, Alan Pemberton or Bill Fairclough and how they were viewed by the SAS? Then read Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files espionage series about the real reprobates in MI6 aka Pemberton’s People. See an intriguing News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website and get ready to call your local film producer!

Brooke (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 17:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Barbara B: are you affected by flood watch/evacuation orders? Hope you and yours are safe and warm. (Went through this a couple of years ago.--Not fun.)

Peter T (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 18:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Anyone remember Barbara Woodhouse?

Granny (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 18:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I do love your blog's, Chris, and the comments, thanks all.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 19:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hello Brooke, Sorry I didn't see this sooner. I'm not in a part of the city I live in where the creeks run, so I'm ok in that direction. I live in Sonoma County. The Russian River crested today slightly above flood level which was a far better outcome than originally thought would happen. Outlying areas have closed roads due to downed trees, mud slides, and standing water in low lying areas. The rain has stopped for the moment. My nephew lives in Santa Cruz, and said that large amounts of driftwood and other debris had washed up along the coast this past weekend. The winds and high wind gusts are what scare me, although my cat never seems to be in the least bit disturbed! Thank you for asking. It is much appreciated.

Brooke (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 22:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Glad to hear that you are safe, Barbara. I saw that the RR evacuation watch was lifted which is probabley a relief. Take good care.

Ace (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 22:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Peter --- Of course. And once Pete is properly trained, we can call admin's perambulations around the King's Cross mine fields 'walkies.'

Robert Donlan (not verified) Tue, 10/01/2023 - 23:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You bring such joy and depth of knowledge to my life.
I savor your thoughts and descriptions.
Saying thank you is hardly enough!
I am a much richer person having discovered you!
I reread your books, always learning new things and insights from subsequent readings.

Glasgow1975 (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 00:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My mother is even shorter than me, but I have 'long legs' apparently and often find myself standing waiting for her to catch up... visiting for Xmas we went out for a spot of late lunch, to be told, 'It's only coffees and cakes now." despite it being hours until they closed. We promptly crossed the road and had a lovely brunch, smashed avocado has even made it as far as darkest Angus...

Ace (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 01:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ah --- I see the problem admin. That business with the scone. You may have inadvertently stumbled on a secret government rationing plan similar in nature to Heller's 'Catch-22.' In your scenario, had you asked for a piece of Dorset Apple Cake, also in plain sight, you would have been told only scones were available after three. So in addition to conserving and determining demand at the same time, there are now unknowable and arbitrary periods of last orders for a whole range of goods and services. Want --- and get not. Clever clogs these bureaucrats.

Janice (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 11:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A wonderful post. Dare I say erudite and amusing? There , I have said it. Thank you and thanks to your husband.

For years I wouldn't read Bryant &May because of the association with matchboxes, I don't know why, no logic there. I am so pleased I started to read them and your other books.

BTW I lived in Hardy Road, up the hill from you and went to Kidbrooke School. Why yes, I am surprisingly good in a fight.

Janice (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 12:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you, thank you for having a character called Janice in your books. I only wish I could live up to her style.

Paul C (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 13:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Strongly suspect that Mick Herron read B&M before conjuring up his Slow Horses novels. They seem v similar in spirit and characters.

Depressing to see that Prince H's book sold 400,000 copies on launch day yesterday. The only silver lining is that bookshops will benefit. In a few months these tomes will be infesting charity shops by the score. Who on earth reads this guff ? It may sell more than any non-fiction book in UK history. Good grief !

My late mother found it difficult to walk and eventually agreed to try a wheelchair and was fine after the first couple of tries. Respectfully suggest that you give one a go. It's not too bad.

Brittany Esparza (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 16:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Chris you are simply brilliant. I can actually visualize said walk with Pete and dare I say it's an apt description?! The world is blessed with your talent.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 17:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

According to an interview on radio this am a local bookstore has had preorders for Harry's book and sold about 20 copies yesterday. They are expecting high sales numbers by month end. I hope Meghan is able to bring the man to adulthood soon. I lost a lot of sympathy for him when he complained that security was no longer provided for him and his son, security that is provided for named persons who occupy specific positions in their nation's structure. The cancellation came after he had said they wouldn't be functioning as members of The Firm any longer. Give up your function and nations automatically cancel the security.

I have an excellent walker that I used for a couple of years until I seemed to be able to manage without it. They make folding ones now that provide a comfortable place to sit when even the supported walking becomes tiring. They have handbrakes and I imagine you could put a bell on the handles. Arthur would enjoy flashing blue lights if that could be managed. I can fold and swing mine into the car boot easily. Banisters are just a start.

Roger (not verified) Wed, 11/01/2023 - 21:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A friend of mine uses an electric wheelchair which they've doctored so it goes much faster than its design speed and suddenly blasts out "The Ride of the Valkyrie" at enormous volume when someone in front of them hadn't noticed.

jeanette Spice (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 03:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I agree about the paving slabs,not so much broken but spread apart, 3 times my high heel got stuck in the gap between the slabs going down the strand. That never happened in the 1970's, mind it was the era of platform shoes. I sort of had a rubber body when I worked in Oxford Circus I walked at a fast pace aka "Pete" and could swerve round all the tourists. For the last 15 years I can't seem to walk in a straight line more like a crab walking sideways (drives hubby mad). This year I rise from a chair start to walk, back won't straighten up, hubby asks if I need the toilet and then howls with laughter because I swing my arms to propel myself forward. I didn't know I did the arm thing but quite proud I am fully straightened up within 30 seconds rather than the minutes it used to take 6 months ago ( compression fracture of spine). That was real mean to put a an end timing for having a scone, you didn't pop into the Savoy did you? After 3 or 4pm their imenu is High Tea which I believe is more of the savoury type than swwet.

.

.

Wendy Tracer (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 10:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I agree with your comment about the 400,000 Harry sales - what for? Better to read a great espionage thriller - Do read and where possible view on screen these best in class espionage thrillers:
Fiction - Len Deighton - Funeral in Berlin - shame they chose The Ipcress File for a remake rather than this
Non-fiction - Bill Fairclough - Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series - a raw noir sui generis novel but read this MI6 intriguing news first - https://theburlingtonfiles.org/news_2022.10.31.php.
Fiction - Mick Herron - Slow Horses in The Slough House series - an anti-Bond masterpiece laced with sardonic humour
Non-fiction - Ben Macintyre - The Spy and The Traitor + A Spy Among Friends - must reads for all espionage cognoscenti

Peter T (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 12:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jeanette, I find hanging upside down with my stomach muscles tensed helps my lower back compression. I've never understood the how and why of high heels. If Pete were forced to wear a pair, would it slow him down enough to make walking easier for Chris? Or perhaps they'd both end face down on the pavement?

Ace (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 13:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Tut,tut. Let's not begrudge the lad formerly known as a senior royal making a few quid. I mean to start with, it costs more than a few to maintain a £11m mansion in tony environs. And he's doing what others have been doing for some time --- just more publicly and from an insider's perspective. If becoming a best selling author is the irritant, I would point out Richard Osman become one too.

In the category of out and about --- there are all sorts of mobility device options these days, including lightweight, folding electric scooters --- depending on how ambitious your 'walkies' (or 'wheelies,' in that case) are --- although you would probably want one with tank-like treads to navigate the obstacle course of King's Cross, and certainly a 'cowcatcher' to clear the way. Many can be hired. You would certainly be able to keep up with the husband. It would be quite the opposite. A suitable alternative would be an army surplus Warthog Armoured All-Terrain Vehicle. No worries about paving stones or pedestrians,and definitely no question about right of way with one of those.

Joan (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 14:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have just got my library copy of “Spare”, let’s be honest most of us have a fascination of what goes on behind the Palace walls. The fact that the King has an old Teddy Bear that he keeps, to remind him of his lonely childhood, humanizes him in a way we can understand. Let’s hope that this book is the final word of a very sad and troubled Prince!
I would suggest a portable scooter for mobility Chris, my sister-in-law uses one because she has knee problems. Most of the big stores have them now, but hers just goes in the trunk of the car. Easy Peasie.

Paul c (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 17:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Betraying your family for money instead of dealing with it in private discreetly especially when they cannot respond is not on. Tut tut indeed.

Peter T (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 17:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just another useless celebrity whose memoirs can go into the same paper recycling facility as all the others.

jeanette (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 20:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for the tip Peter, I can understand the logic behind that, but if I tried I can see that being an accident waiting to happen. I have RA as well so not much strength. Yes Pete would bring him down. There is a huge wobble when first wearing heels and your gait can become bow legged until you get the hang of heels!!

Ace (not verified) Thu, 12/01/2023 - 20:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul --- By no means am i justifying or excusing (except in a perhaps less than successfully facetious way) what any of Them do or say. Quite frankly, I couldn't care less, although I do feel for what a young Harry had to go through --- leaving him unfortunately angry and agitated as he approaches middle age. Reports were that he did try to have a private meeting of minds with the family at some point in what now seems the distant past. But we are at the 'he said, They said' stage, so it hardly makes a difference and especially in light of the documentary and the book. Having said all this, don't for a moment think the Palace will not eventually respond. Not directly, of course, but in its usual way, as in the past, by 'speaking' through a favoured few in the media.

Lorraine (not verified) Fri, 13/01/2023 - 10:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Delighted you managed to get out for a walk - and treating us again to another wonderful and amusing post. xx

Ace (not verified) Fri, 13/01/2023 - 19:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

And now for something completely different. For those unfamiliar with chatbots, which are A.I.-based apps which allow you to...well...chat or ask questions, you might enjoy playing around with ChatGPT and Character.AI You will have to register in both cases, but it is an easy process. I asked ChatGPT to write something in the style of our favourite author and this is what it gave me. Don't know whether to be amused or change my shreddies.

This is a short example of a paragraph written in the style of Christopher Fowler, known for his use of descriptive and evocative language in his writing of crime and supernatural fiction.

The city was alive with the hum of electricity, the bright neon lights illuminating the streets like a carnival of the damned. The crowds bustled along the pavement, their faces etched with a mix of hope and despair, as if they were searching for something that they knew they would never find. The alleys and side streets were filled with the shadows of those who had given up the search, their eyes dull and their souls empty. It was a city of secrets, where the past and the present were forever entwined, and where the darkness seemed to seep out of every crack and crevice. A city where anything was possible, and where nothing was quite as it seemed.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 13/01/2023 - 22:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ace, my husband says, "Yucch" but it does have a je ne c'est quoi sort of element of Chris. It's heavy on the supernatural, though.
I have a heavy cold. Remember colds? I haven't had one like this in 20 years. Yes, I did a covid test and it definitely isn't that, but I can't wait for it to give up and go away.

Peter T (not verified) Sat, 14/01/2023 - 09:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"A city where anything was possible, and where nothing was quite as it seemed." has a back cover, film poster ring to it. I imagine the publishers would like to use it.

Peter T (not verified) Sat, 14/01/2023 - 10:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ace, I tried chat GPT. I asked a few questions about probability, surprise, Bayes' theorem, and the Monty Hall problem. It was very impressive. It didn't fall at all short until we got to Monty Hall, where it became clear that its answers aren't based on understanding, more on learned responses. At that point, it reminded me of some politicians and medical professionals. It can't replace our Chris.