Today we talk to Christopher Fowler one of the most prolific and varied writers in the business with 40 works to his name across an eye-watering range of genres, never mind writing for various celebrities, from Leslie Nielsen to several of the Pythons. An avid movie buff, Christopher also ran a successful film marketing business. We asked him about his career, and his upcoming Bryant & May novel The Burning Man?
First, tell us a little about yourself, Chris.
I was born in Greenwich, London, and worked in the film industry for many years. I’ve done everything from standing in for James Bond to being a villain in a Batman comic for DC. I started writing young, and had my first book published when I was 28. I wrote a fantastical thriller called Roofworld, 13 collections of short stories and many novels, including Spanky, Psychoville and Disturbia. Then I created a series of mystery novels, which I’m still writing.
What about your new novel, Bryant & May – The Burning Man? What’s in it for crime fiction lovers?
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to this series, because they’re designed to be read out of sequence; each one contains an explanation of the characters and situation. Bryant & May are elderly detectives in a fast-changing London. The city is as much of a character as the detectives. This time the banking crisis has caused protests and clashes with police. Trapped between the two sides, a young man dies, but someone is using the chaos in the city to kill his enemies. This is the biggest volume in the 12-book series so far.
You’ve a wide and varied collection of work available, from thriller to horror to autobiography and to crime. How would you characterise your style and what inspires your stories?
I believe you can be populist without dumbing down. My stories are for smart minds. Because I blog every day and run a website I can include a lot of themes that excite or frighten my readership. I love including snippets of history, black comedy and quirky characters – there’s plenty of dark laughter here. But the series isn’t for those who like their tales bland.
What catalysed the creation of Bryant & May?
I always seem to have been thinking of these two characters, elderly men in a young world. I road-tested them as characters in several of my other novels first, and loved their contrast so much that I gave them a series. John May is slightly younger, tech-literate, charming, smart. Arthur Bryant is academic, bad-tempered, outrageously rude and occasionally terrifies small children by taking his teeth out.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during your long writing career?
Trust your characters. All the best crime novels have great characters. If you have no human story to tell, just a lot of plot, you’re sunk. Why did the TV show True Detective work so well? It had characters you remember.
What’s next from the pen of Christopher Fowler?
Next up is a dark thriller set in Dubai called The Sand Men. I also have a haunted house thriller out called Nyctophobia. There will be a new book at the end of the year, but I’m under a publisher’s embargo not to talk about it until next month. It’s killing me!
Read our previous reviews of The Bleeding Heart and The Invisible Code, or check out our Christopher Fowler excerpt from the charity compilation OxCrimes. Watch for our review of The Burning Man soon…