Interview with Christopher Fowler, Author of London’s Glory
30 Mar 2016
In the search to find subjects for my elderly detectives Bryant & May to investigate I ended up exploring the Blitz, theatres, underground rivers, artists, tontines, highwaymen, the cult of celebrity, London pubs and clubs, land ownership, migrants, churches, the subway system, the Knights Templar, codebreaking and riots, and still feel as if I’m only scratching at the surface of London history. Along the way Bryant & May have mentioned plenty of unexplored cases from the files of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, so I took the opportunity of fleshing out some of these missing cases in ‘London’s Glory’. Think of this as a Christmas annual, a throwback to the days when such collections came with with a few tricks and surprises. Ideally I would have included a selection of working models you could cut out. Maybe next time…By the way, the title comes from the old Bryant & May matchboxes, which used to say ‘England’s Glory’ on them.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
What a question! Although I love many American novels I think it’ll be a very English list, probably ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens, ‘Gormenghast’ by Mervyn Peake, ‘The Drowned World’ by JG Ballard, ‘Howard’s End’ by EM Forster and Evelyn Waugh’s ‘A Handful of Dust’.
What is the one movie that you can quote the most?
‘The Producers’ by Mel Brooks. Every single line passed into my conversation. ‘That’s it baby, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!’
Say you now host a literary-themed talk show (congrats). Who would be your first guest? What would you ask that person?
Hilary Mantel. I’d have to ask her; ‘Wolf Hall – how in the hell did you ever write that? How did you go back into the past so completely and climb inside your character’s head – by hypnosis or witchcraft or plain hard work?’
In the past, you worked within the film industry. Do you have any interesting stories from the movie business?
I had a script under option with Paramount, and went in to see them about it. When I arrived, the Paramount exec said, ‘Hey, Chris. Your movie. It’s dead. We screwed up. What else you got?’ I suddenly realised that he thought I was now coming to pitch him a new film treatment. Having gone too far to be able to point out the mistake, I invented a script outline on the spot about a Hollywood executive who discovers that he’s one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. An hour later I got a call from my agent, who told me that he loved it, LOVED it, and could I write a full treatment by Friday? There was just one snag, the agent added. ‘He thinks you invented the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We have to keep him away from a bible until you sign.’ I said I didn’t think that would be a problem. There are lots of other stories about my film years in my biography ‘Film Freak’.
If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?
I’m struggling not to say ‘blogging’. I partly live in Barcelona, so I’d probably walk to my favourite park and read in the sun.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from London’s Glory?
I always like writing the bits where Bryant & May are sitting around shooting the breeze. At the start of ‘Bryant & May Ahoy!’ they have a random conversation about where old sayings come from. There’s a section like this in every book.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Everyone has the same feelings; they just think differently.
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