Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Christopher Fowler: London's Glory Blog Tour - Author contribution

To celebrate the launch of "London's Glory", a collection of short stories about the detectives Bryant and May, we are delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler's blog tour and take the opprtunity to put some questions and learn the true future of this great pairing of characters.

 Before Bryant and May you had success with a few other books including "Roofworld".  These books were either short story collections or stand-alone novels but then you come up with a series of 15 books about an unlikely pairing of detectives.  Where did you get the idea of such an odd couple as Bryant and May from?

I wanted to create two Golden Age detectives in a modern setting. I made Bryant & May old to
dispense with the ageism that suggests only the young can do their jobs well. Older characters bring a lifetime of experience. I started with a matchbox label that read "Bryant & May - England's Glory". That gave me their names, their nationality, and something vague and appealing, the sense of an institution with roots in London's sooty past. You have to remember that London has only just been lit up. Before the mid-1980s it was a city steeped in shadows which bred criminality. We lost something when the lights were turned up and the CCTV was turned on, and I try to recapture that lost sense of the sinister.

 There is a psychic element in many of  the cases - did you develop these psychic themes as deeply as you would like or did editors hold you back? Or, perhaps, the opposite?

Amazingly I’m still working with the same editor and he never holds me back! I sew threads of ideas throughout the novels that I like to return to, and one of them is that DS Janice Longbright and her mother are psychic, which I’m able to explore in a non-supernatural, realistic way, in ‘The Burning Man’. I think there should always be a hint of the unknown in the stories…

Did you plan on them becoming such a long series?

I hadn’t expected the series to last so long at all. In fact, the first book was written as a one-off. The idea of a couple of elderly, grumpy detectives clearly didn’t sound very appealing to my former publisher, so I took the book to someone who understood what I was getting at, and have been there ever since. It seems to have worked and the detectives have a growing number of fans, which delights me.

I particularly enjoy making them behave like experienced adults and immature children. I think heroes are often boring simply because they have to be appealingly young – well, Bryant & May don’t have to be; they’re as esoteric, eccentric, bad-tempered and weird as the villains, who in most books are more interesting than heroes.

In "The Burning Man" we are presented with a scenario of the end of the series and I, for one, was gutted. What made you decide to bring the series to an end?

I haven’t! There is, as with all the mystery novels I most admire, a sleight of hand going on with clues hidden in several earlier volumes. I love showing that something is utterly impossible, and then revealing how it can be done. Just one reader has worked out what I’m up to, and I may have to kill him. I don’t write the books to be read in sequence, by the way; in fact I think they’re more fun if you mix them up. Perhaps ‘On The Loose’ and ‘Off The Rails’ should be read together, and ’77 Clocks’ is the odd one out, being set in a different period.

London's Glory treats us to a chance to follow their antics once again in a group of short stories - will there be more stories from before "The Burning Man" to follow?

I think if it turns out there’s a market for them, then yes. Publishers always tell you not to write short stories as readers don’t like them, but that’s a red rag to a bull to me, and just makes me want to write more. Conan Doyle’s consulting detective inspired many other authors to tackle stories beyond the accepted canon. Adrian Conan Doyle picked up his father’s mantle, accompanied by John Dickson Carr, for ‘The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes’, based on twelve unexplained cases mentioned by Holmes, and did two more volumes…

You have returned to stand-alone and short story books - do you a plan for a replacement of Bryant and May? 

See above – they’re not leaving yet! In fact the next full-length novel, ‘Strange Tide’, is out in March.

If you had to be judged on just one of your books and could choose which it was to be - which would you put forward?

Without question it would be Paperboy, because it’s my life. Well, that and the sequel Film Freak. But if they’re about who I am, then Bryant & May are about how I’d like to be.

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