The latest installment in the Bryant and May series sees the elderly detectives battling to find an increasingly brave and bizarre murderer/arsonist against the backdrop of a collapsing bank system, corrupt bankers and London in lock-down because of escalating protests and riots. (To get a picture of the events in the novel, imagine the financial meltdown on 2008 coinciding with the riots of 2011 but then make them bigger.)
I loved the idea of older gentlemen with old fashioned, post-war ideas dealing with very modern crimes and ideas (I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of the very elderly Bryant trying to get his head around social media.) Yes, it’s unusual to have protaganists who are older, but I think they really shine in this fast paced, witty and thrilling detective novel. Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes novels.
I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the author, Christopher Fowler:
1) Are Bryant and May based on anyone you know? Also- are you more Bryant or May?
Oh, I’m a bit of both but Bryant was entirely based on my great friend Jim, whose photo even makes it into one of the books. I tend to create warring forces within single characters and them splitting them into duos, probably because I worked with Jim for so many years in my day job. He died, and I still imagine conversations with him, because he was Arthur Bryant.
2) There’s a strong Sherlockian feel to the partnership; do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?
Probably ‘The Dancing Men’ and ‘The Sussex Vampire’ but to be honest I’ve read all of them so many times that they now blur together. Although I don’t much care for the novels. I’ve written quite a few, too.
3) You clearly have fun with naming your characters! How do you choose the names of the people in your books?
Sometimes I nick real people – Maggie Armitage is very real even though she seems too mad to be true, but she is – a former Bunny girl turned witch. I’ve wanted to write in a feisty girl called Beryl Flynn for a while…
4) The events of the novel are clearly political and based on recent events such as the banking crash, the London Riots and the rising disaffection with politics we’re currently seeing. Is incorporating politics a natural part of your writing? (Also- I’m curious- how would Bryant vote in the upcoming elections?!)
Bryant is dyed in the wool Labour, May more conservative with a small ‘c’. I think because I grew up in a time of marches and protests I have a political attitude, and I’m always shocked when people say they don’t care about politics. Our politicians may be crap (or outright sinister, like Boris Johnson) but freedoms have to be protected or they’ll vanish.
5) I love your descriptions of London. Where in London do you find the most inspiration?
Probably along the South Bank, where you can see the most. Or in Holborn and the East End – never West. I went up the Shard, but disappointingly it just made London look like an other major city because we were too high. I could have been in Tokyo.
6) Who would be in your ideal cast for a series of Bryant and May films?
I think Toby Jones would make a great Bryant, and someone a bit suave for May, like Timothy Dalton.
Bryant and May: The Burning Man is available to buy now.