Thursday 26 March 2015

Book Review: The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler + Interview!!

Title: The Burning Man
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Transworld
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Synopsis: 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.

Review: The Burning Man is quite an apt title because this book is on FIREEEE (I can’t promise that is the only bad joke in this review...but I’ll try keep them to a minimum).

One of the good things about coming to a series late is that there is already a history and a development to the characters and it also means I have a wealth of new books to go back and read. It sort of reminds me of how the Doctor and River Song were on two different time paths and they kept meeting at different points in their history, so as I trail back things will make sense and other pieces will fall into place, and the characters will be built even more.  Though you can as I have read this as a standalone and then go back and start at the beginning (or indeed any point)

This is one of those times where I’d seen this book floating about with its almost old school poster vibes cover, thought maybe...but then read it and am so glad I did. There was a real depth to the writing, I want to describe it as full, but I don’t know if that makes sense. It wasn't a book that i finished quickly even though I was flying through it, and I liked that because i felt like I was going along with the story, and it wasn't suddenly over. This was mixed in with a good amount of natural comedy “” and supported with really strong characters. I’ll wait to I've read at least another B+M adventure but I think Bryant and May could easily become one of my favorite detective pairs. Bryant was beautifully broken, a strange mix of eclecticness mixed in with charisma, but yet both you and May (his balancer almost) know something up and you almost spiral down with him, and it was sad to read, but it was the character so it made sense.  

I do love a book set in London and this London was current and felt real (I know not all the book are like this so it will be interesting to see how this changes) and using the elements of rioting gave this London a different edge, a sort of look at an extreme alternative, that when you think about it isn't that alternate.   I also love peculiar so this suited me just fine! There were elements of history and  occult thrown in, but they weren't a central focal point of overhang the book, they slotted in nicely and picked my interest on more than one occasion.

This was my first crime with the PCU, for me a great new crime voice to have encountered, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. 

Interview with Christopher Fowler:

1.What is your writing process like?

have a habit of jumping over and between genres, and it confuses readers. I used to think like a traditional genre writer, coming up with what I felt was a killer plot and a good theme. I revised my thinking over time to aim for the creation of a good central character. The comedy writers Galton & Simpson taught me that you have nothing without character and tragedy. I do four drafts; the first is the ‘blocking’ draft – just getting from the beginning to the end. The second is the main writing draft, where all the character details go in (this is the most prone to change). The third is the ‘Fix the Bits which are Broken’ draft and the fourth tidies up

2. How much research goes into each novel?
Sometimes I only include about a fifth of what I’ve researched. I’m often still researching well into the second draft, and it keeps altering the book.

3. What are some of the strangest facts you've found about London? 

Where do I begin? That there was once an underground river powering the scenery at the Palace Theatre? That nobody knew who owned much of London’s land until the 1980s, when the government stole lots of it? That the streetwalkers of Southwark wore silver flying penises around their necks and that they still turn up on the river’s foreshore

4. How much of actual events do you try to draw into you works, if any?
(You haven’t read many of my books, have you? LOL) Nearly every one is based on a real event!

(whoops! This was my first, but not my last!) 

5. Do you base your characters on actual people?

Arthur Bryant is based on my best friend. There’s even a photograph of him in one of the books. Nearly all of the main characters are real, especially Maggie Armitage. Weirdly, I’m not the only person to use her as a fictional character. The author Tom Wakefield did too.

6. Who is your favourite character to write?
Bryant, hands down – I can have so much fun with him because he says the most unthinkable things out loud, and because he’s elderly everyone lets him get away with it. Although lately I’ve been having fun with a new character; a tramp called Esmeralda.

7. Have you ever found that the characters have taken on a life of their own over the novels, and gone to places you hadn’t initially planned for them to?

I do take suggestions from readers about where to send them. Once you’ve established a character very thoroughly, you can let them go anywhere they wasn’t. In a sense, you no longer fully control them. They have become quite real to me now. After I did a graphic novel with them in, readers wrote to say whether of not the physical drawn versions matched their ideas of the characters.

8. Throughout the novels you've looked at a number of different time periods, which has been your favourite to write about?
Actually there’s only one book set in a different time, although the first one has long flashbacks to when the detectives first met. I prefer the present, because there’s a lot happening that people have strong opinions about, and I try to reflect that.

9. If you could write a crime ‘mash-up’ a ‘’Bryant & May and ??’’ with another Author, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Sarah Lund from ‘The Killing’ or Saga Noren from ‘The Bridge’, someone who was as damaged an odd as Bryant & May!

10. What do you like about writing Crime as a genre?
The fact that you can sneak all kinds of social comment into an entertaining read.

11. What can we expect next from Bryant & May?

In November, there’ll be a Christmas Bryant & May book out called ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’, which explores some of the cases mentioned in the novels.

12. What is the best book you’ve read recently?

Tough question; I loved Hans Fallada’s ‘Alone In Berlin’ – although it broke my heart. And I just reread the Gormenghast trilogy, all time favourites!


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