Fowler, Christopher

Tagged: Author

(1953-    ) UK advertising copywriter, film marketer (through his firm The Creative Partnership) and author, mostly of horror tales and thrillers, recently also using the pseudonym L K Fox. He began to publish work of genre interest with the stories assembled in his first work of fiction, City Jitters (coll 1986): several of these tales are focused on London, where much of his work has been set, including his first novel, Roofworld (1988), which initiates the loose London Quartet sequence of tales set in a displaced vision of London. Though nothing explicitly fantastic occurs in the tale, the extremity of its venue and telling – a nocturnal war breaks out among Wainscot Society gangs who live on the city's roofs – creates a sense of Urban Fantasy at its edgiest [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below for this term as used here]. Further volumes in the sequence include Rune (1990), which is remotely derived from M R James's "Casting the Runes" (in More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, coll 1911), Red Bride (1993) and Darkest Day (1994; rev vt Seventy-Seven Clocks 2005). Other tales threaten to break through the envelope of the fantastic, but generally hold back from rupture, the better perhaps to depict the lives of men and women who seem to enjoy little hope of escape; exceptions include Spanky (1994), a very modern deal-with-the-devil fantasy, and Hell Train (2011), a lovingly melodramatic homage to a wide variety of Hammer horror film tropes whose various stories unfold aboard the hell-bound train.

A long series of detective thrillers – the Bryant and May sequence beginning with Full Dark House (2003) – occasionally relaxes into something like fantasy, though guardedly. The titular protagonists, already featured in Rune, Darkest Day (recast for this series as Seventy-Seven Clocks) and Soho Black (1998), remain despite their great age central to the Peculiar Crimes Unit connected variously to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police, at various times located above Mornington Crescent tube station in Hampstead Road and in the Caledonian Road in nether Islington; always in north London. Beginning with Full Dark House, which is set in 2003 and in the Blitz (see World War Two), Bryant and May engage in cases over the decades that sometimes take them into strange regions Underground, into encounters with soi-disant Secret Masters, local Mythology and psychogeography, and variously call upon them to cope with a London whose fluvial past constantly interpenetrates the present; individual plots, some of them unpacking into Commedia dell'Arte extravagances, seem generally shaped to elucidate aspects of the world City rather than the reverse. In Seventy-Seven Clocks, perhaps the most science-fictional of these cases, the "mastermind" behind a string of bizarre murders proves to be a Steampunkish clockwork calculating engine created in Victorian times to identify commercial threats to a family business, triggering their automatic elimination by hired assassins; at the time of the narrative action in 1973, as recollected by Bryant three decades later, this mechanism is badly out of order and has begun to target the large family itself. The back-story of The Invisible Code (2012) features a racially selective mutant virus that induces suicide; Bryant's apparent decline into dementia in Bryant & May: Strange Tide (2016) takes the form of hallucinatory Timeslips into London's past, from which he characteristically derives illumination.

Very little of what Fowler has written can be straightforwardly understood as sf, except perhaps The Sand Men (2015), a crime tale set in a cruel Near Future Dubai, which much resembles the present-day country in the way that late J G Ballard novels resemble the worlds they subtly transform into alien scapes, and can be read transferring upwards to an even harsher world some of the themes embedded in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) by Hilary Mantel (1952-   ). In everything Fowler publishes, whether or not ostensibly designed to convey alarums about the contemporary world as a whole, a wicked and acute intelligence infiltrates warningly. [JC/DRL]

Christopher Robert Fowler

born London: 26 March 1953




London Quartet

  • Roofworld (London: Century/Legend, 1988) [London Quartet: hb/Ali Bey]
  • Rune (London: Century, 1990) [London Quartet: hb/nonpictorial: pb/Graham Humphreys]
  • Red Bride (London: Little, Brown, 1992) [London Quartet: pb/Mark Taylor]
  • Darkest Day (London: Little, Brown, 1993) [see Seventy-Seven Clocks below: London Quartet: hb/Mark Taylor]

Bryant and May

individual titles

  • Spanky (London: Warner Books, 1994) [pb/photographic]
  • Psychoville (London: Warner Books, 1995) [pb/Jay Eff]
  • Disturbia (London: Warner Books, 1996) [pb/Jay Eff]
  • Soho Black (London: Warner Books, 1998) [pb/]
  • Calabash (London: Warner Books, 2000) [pb/]
  • The Curse of Snakes (London: Andersen Press, 2010) [pb/]
  • Hell Train (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2011) [pb/Graham Humphreys]
  • Nyctophobia (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2014) [pb/Pye Parr]
  • The Sand Men (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2015) [pb/Pye Parr]


nonfiction (selected)

  • Paperboy (London: Doubleday, 2009) [nonfiction: memoir: hb/]


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