Hello to all of you gorgeous lovelies and welcome back! I am very lucky to have the marvellous Christopher Fowler on my blog today as part of his tour for THE BURNING MAN the twelfth title in his Bryant & May series.
I have been lucky enough, thanks to the lovely people at Transworld, to have read both this book and the one that precedes it (The Bleeding Heart). They are both excellent examples of the crime/thriller genre and feature two of the finest detectives I have ever encountered. Arthur Bryant and John May are as Sherlockian as they come but are also paired up with wit, wisdom and a very dark sort of humour.
Bryant & May: The Burning Man
London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.
Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.
At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.
‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.
Publication Date: 26th March 2015
Acquisition: Sent for review/blog tour
But enough from me, now to the man himself, Christopher Fowler.
1) First things first, this is your first time featured on georgelesterwrites.com, tell us a bit about yourself and your, frankly, excellent Bryant & May series and the new book The Burning Man.
I always wrote, but I didn’t have the confidence to think I could ever be published. Two things happened; I moved to the USA and suddenly had a lot of free time (not a lot to do there if you don’t like sports or the gym), so I began concentrating on short stories. And Clive Barker wrote the Books of Blood, which were hugely successful and opened the way for other authors selling short story collections.
I had the luxury of road-testing Bryant & May first in other books, and they slowly crept into my consciousness as they fleshed out. I worked very hard indeed to make them popular – it was never a sure thing. My first publisher turned them down. I think only my editor at Transworld and my agent really ever believed in them from the start. But through them I got to write about al sorts of subjects. They’re not so very different from my other stand-alone novels in some ways, especially ‘Psychoville’ and ‘Disturbia’.
2) Both books I have read of yours (The Bleeding Heart and the new book The Burning Man) have been intelligent and riveting, but there has also been a strong thread of humour that runs through the work mostly coming from our two protagonists. How did this level of humour come about?
I use a lot of black humour because I think it’s an appropriate response to today’s world. Black comedy, casual cruelties and embarrassments surround us. It’s dangerous introducing humour into a book – critics like gravitas. You can get away with anything if you say it with a straight face. Look at Lee Child’s excellent Jack Reacher novels, which are a hairsbreadth from satire. I’m always proud when I write something I know to be funny. ‘I think ‘Paperboy’ is my funniest, and there are passages in ‘Calabash’ I like, especially the conversation about progress that two characters have. Also, the short story ‘The Night Museum’ still makes me laugh.
3) We’re 12 books into the Bryant and May series, where do your ideas come from to keep it fresh for the reader? Do you see an endpoint for the pair?
Every time I think about killing them off I think why? They’re conduits for my ideas. I bet Sean Connery regretted leaving Bond.
4) As I have said, I think Bryant and May are brilliant characters. They bounce off each other so well and just fly off the page. How did you develop them from idea to how they appear on the page?
If you look for recurrent themes in my fiction you’ll find pairs and opposites, usually two characters complementing or cancelling each other’s personalities. I tend to create warring forces within single characters and them splitting them into duos, probably because I worked with my best friend Jim for so many years in my day job. I imagined having conversations with him and how he would react. He died, and I still imagine conversations with him, because he was Arthur Bryant.
5) Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was seven I started writing terrible long serials. The whole story is told in my memoir ‘Paperboy’. I never wanted to be anything else, ever.
6) Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a published author.
I was only ever a writer, filling diaries and notebooks with stories. I set up a film company when I was 25, writing documentaries and ‘making of’ films, ghost-writing dialogue for movie stars, and I wrote novels in my spare time. But I still had very little confidence, even though I could tell a Very Famous Star ‘No, you’re wrong’ without feeling awkward – it’s what you get used to. My first serious novel was ‘Roofworld’, in 1988. Writing does require small acts of bravery. Authors might hide behind the patina of the page, but all prose requires a certain degree of honesty and the voicing of an opinion.
7) What books inspired you growing up? Do you have an all time favourite?
‘Gormeghast’, ‘Dandelion Wine’, ‘Orlando’, ‘A Handful of Dust’ and a million others!
8) What was the last great book you read?
Hans Fallada’s ‘Alone In Berlin’, heartbreaking and incredibly powerful.
9) Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?
I’ve a new thriller coming up in September called ‘The Sand Men’, set in Dubai, about a state-of-the-art resort and a conspiracy…then ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’ arrives in time for Christmas.
10) And finally, for budding writers out there (crime or otherwise), what is the best piece of advice you could give?
I do get asked this a lot and generally say I say write for yourself because it gives you great pleasure, and make sure you finish what you write completely before you show it to anyone. Then if you don’t get it sold, you’ll still have the satisfaction of achievement. And don’t overexplain everything – we get it!
Finally, a piece of advice from my teacher: ‘Nobody likes a good all-rounder’.
Christopher Fowler is the award-winning author of over thirty novels and twelve short story collections, and the Bryant & May mystery novels, which record the adventures of two Golden Age detectives investigating impossible London crimes.
Christopher was born in Greenwich, London. He attended Colfes, the Royal Leathersellers Guild School, and after joined J Walter Thompson as a copywriter. At the age of 26 he founded The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of UK and international film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, trailers and documentaries.