Fowler, Christopher 1953-
Fowler, Christopher 1953-
Born March 26, 1953, in London, England; son of William Edward (a glass blower) and Lilian Kathleen Fowler (a legal secretary). Ethnicity: "White." Education: Educated in England. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Church of England (Anglican).
Home—London, England. Office—Creative Partnership, 13 Bateman St., London W1D 3AF, England. Agent—Mandy Little, Watson Little, "Capo di Monte," Windmill Hill, London NW3 6RJ, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Worked as copywriter for various advertising agencies in London, England, 1972-78; Creative Partnership (film marketing firm), London, founder and creative director, 1979—; writer.
British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story of the Year, 1998, for "Wageslaves," and 2004, for "American Waitress," and for Best Novella, 2005, for Breathe; August Derleth Novel of the Year Award, 2004, for "Full Dark House."
Roofworld, Century Hutchinson (London, England), 1988.
Rune, Century (London, England), 1990, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1991.
Red Bride, Little, Brown (London, England), 1992, Roc (New York, NY), 1993.
Darkest Day, Little, Brown (London, England), 1993.
Spanky, Warner (New York, NY), 1994.
Psychoville, Warner (New York, NY), 1995.
Disturbia, Warner (New York, NY), 1997.
Soho Black, Warner (New York, NY), 1998.
Calabash, Warner (New York, NY), 2000.
Breathe: Everyone Has to Do It, Telos, 2004.
"BRYANT AND MAY MYSTERY" SERIES
Full Dark House, Bantam (New York, NY), 2003.
The Water Room, Bantam (New York, NY), 2005.
Seventy-seven Clocks, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Ten Second Staircase, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
White Corridor, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Victoria Vanishes, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2008.
City Jitters, Sphere (London, England), 1986, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988, revised edition, Warner (New York, NY), 1992.
More City Jitters, Dell (New York, NY), 1988.
The Bureau of Lost Souls, Century (London, England), 1989, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1991.
Sharper Knives, Warner (New York, NY), 1992.
Flesh Wounds, Warner (New York, NY), 1995.
Personal Demons, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1998.
Uncut, Warner (New York, NY), 1999.
The Devil in Me, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2000.
Demonized, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 2004.
Old Devil Moon, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 2007.
How to Impersonate Famous People (humor), Quartet (London, England), 1986.
The Ultimate Party Book: The Illustrated Guide to Social Intercourse, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1987.
(With John Bolton) Menz Insana (graphic novel), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of screenplays, including The Waiting Darkness, and of various British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) productions, including First Born. Contributing author for the movie The Most Boring Woman in the World. Contributor to periodicals, including Fear, Interzone, and the Independent on Sunday.
Six short stories have been adapted for film, including the short story "The Master Builder" (a television movie titled Through the Eyes of a Killer) by Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), "Left Hand Drive," and "On the Edge."
"Christopher Fowler," wrote Pauline Morgan in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, "specializes in the Urban Nightmare. His novels and short stories are largely set in contemporary cities (usually London) and deal with the nasty things that people do to each other…. In all his work he shows the nastier side of human nature, and the best demonstrates how the minds of apparently normal people can degenerate. The horror is that atrocities can be committed by anyone and you may not suspect them until it is too late." Among Fowler's horror novels is Roofworld, which the author once described to CA as the story of "rival gangs who live on the rooftops of London and fight arcane battles for supremacy." "The resulting book," noted Morgan, "takes on the persona of a fast-paced detective novel with elements of farce, a tiny hint of the supernatural, and a feeling that a lot of the basics of the situation have been glossed over."
The horror novel Rune is a novel which Fowler once described to CA as the story of "a disparate group of Londoners who band together to prevent the Devil's return to earth via multinational [corporations] and modern technology." In this novel, advertising executive Harry Buckingham is compelled to defend himself against police allegations that he is responsible for a series of peculiar deaths in London. Among these deaths is that of Buckingham's own father, who had been hit by a truck; the father's secretary, who is crushed in an escalator; and the father's two business partners, one of whom is killed when he drives his automobile into the Thames river after striking several bystanders. Buckingham eventually teams with an unlikely group—including a woman truck driver, an elderly detective, and a nine-year-old computer whiz—to determine the links between these deaths. The group discovers that an evil businessman is using occult forces to realize business monopolization and, eventually, mastery of the entire world. Martin Morse Wooster, in his review of Rune for the Washington Post, proclaimed Fowler "a fine entertainer" and affirmed that the novel "will satisfy the seasoned thriller fan." Morgan dubbed Rune an "homage to M.R. James."
In Disturbia Fowler creates the League of Prometheus, a secret group of wealthy Londoners who rule the city with violence. Revolving around a young man named Vince who must find the answers to ten trivia questions in a single night, the novel is a class-conscious quest story in which Fowler "has cut back on the splashy, visceral stuff but indulged his obsession with London to the full," according to Suzi Feay in the New Statesman.
Modeled on the time-honored dual-detective model honed by Arthur Conan Doyle and others, Fowler unearths a decades-old crime in Full Dark House, which is his debut novel in a mystery series featuring Arthur Bryant and John May, partners in the London Police Department's Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU). The story begins in the present, as soon-to-retire Detective May, saddened by the death of his partner, reflects on a case the pair had handled years before, in 1940s London. Soon after they are trained as part of the newly formed PCU, May and Bryant are faced with an unusual serial killer known as the Palace Phantom whose victims encompassed the cast members of a production of Offenbach's opera Orpheus in the Underworld. May "uses everything from crime-scene forensics to spiritualists" in solving the crime, explained School Library Journal reviewer Susan H. Woodcock, adding that novelist Fowler "skillfully shifts the action between 1940 and the twenty-first century" in building his dual mystery. Calling the novel "darkly atmospheric," Wilda Williams wrote in the Library Journal that war-torn London provides a "dramatic backdrop" for Fowler's tale. In Booklist, Connie Fletcher praised the novel's scenes of the London Blitz as "absolutely riveting," while in Publishers Weekly a critic noted that in Full Dark House "the potency of Greek myth … is skillfully played out in the detectives' theories about the killer."
In Fowler's second novel in the series, The Water Room, Bryant and May, the "elderly odd couple" as described by a Publishers Weekly critic, are back on the job. This time they are involved in two unofficial investigations. Bryant is approached by a former colleague to investigate the mysterious death of his sister, who was found in her basement drowned, despite the absence of any water on or around her. Bryant enlists the help of May, his partner for over fifty years since the establishment of London's PCU during World War II. May is also busy unofficially investigating an expert on London's lost underground rivers who may be involved in a sinister plot. More strange deaths follow before the murderer is finally revealed. Critics praised the novel's characters: Joe Hartlaub noted in his review of The Water Room for BookReporter.com that although Fowler did a great job with the story's plot, it is still "eclipsed by the characterization of the primary and secondary principals within. One comes to really like the people encountered on the pages." A Booklist contributor praised Bryant and May as two characters who "manage to breathe new life into an established genre in which it's getting harder and harder to find anything genuinely fresh," and Hartlaub believed that "the men are polar opposites—hilariously so—and thus work perfectly together."
The next novel in the series, Seventy-seven Clocks, brings together a younger Bryant and May. It also details how the pair came to join the PCU. Set in 1973, the duo's investigation revolves around several bizarre murders that are all connected with a strange group, the Alliance of Eternal Light, and the family who founded it. One critic for Publishers Weekly remarked that fans of the previous two novels in the series are "likely to feel let down by the far-fetched solution," but that will not take away the "pleasure of a twisty thriller, full of action and plot surprises."
Fowler's fourth installment of the "Bryant and May Mystery" series, Ten Second Staircase, "delivers a delirious blend of black humor and suspense," according to Booklist's Allison Block. The two detectives are yet again faced with unraveling a case too peculiar for traditional law enforcement professionals. This one concerns a string of murders of second-rate celebrities of questionable repute perpetrated by a masked highway-man on horseback, according to several witnesses. New York Times Book Review critic Marilyn Stasio regarded this novel as "a lively example of Fowler's imaginative approach to what is essentially a traditional whodunit." "Those who occasionally have taken Fowler to task in the past for what they have considered to be unlikely solutions to difficult puzzles will have reason to rejoice here, as the apparently impossible Highway-man murders are plausibly explained," praised Hartlaub. He called Ten Second Staircase "the strongest entry in the series to date."
White Corridor, the fifth novel in the series, packs two mysteries in one novel. Bryant and May find themselves trapped on a road during a blizzard while on their way to an international spiritualists' convention. Skulking among the trapped vehicles is a man who could possibly be a multiple murderer. At the same time, they try to help their associates back in London (via cell phone) solve a murder before the PCU is shut down once and for all. "Once again, Fowler shows himself to be a master of the ‘impossible crime’ tale," observed a Publishers Weekly critic.
Fowler is also the author of several story collections such as The Bureau of Lost Souls, which is summarized by Fowler in his introduction to the work as a collection of tales about "urban paranoia." Here a woman grows increasingly suspicious of her fireplace, a package deliverer falls captive to a gruesome creature, men hunt tourists in London's Leicester Square, and an obnoxious child is abducted while vacationing. "It would be a strange reader," contended Times Literary Supplement contributor Phil Baker, "who wanted [the child] … returned in one piece after his kidnap by terrorists." Summarizing the tales collected in The Bureau of Lost Souls, Baker added that "they vary in tone, as pathos and horror share the book with black comedy and galumphing satire."
Also discussing Fowler's short fiction, Morgan found that, "as in the novels, the deaths in the stories are largely gory, sometimes predictable and sometimes more shocking because they are sudden. The longer stories are more satisfying because Fowler is able to develop the characters and situations, and later stories are better as he has become more skillful at handling his material."
Fowler once told CA: "I am a hybrid writer, mixing horror, fantasy, and science fiction with realistic settings in modern-day cities. My work is urban, violent, slightly paranoid, usually sprinkled with black humor. My characters include punks, crooks, yuppies, scientists, mediums, senior citizens, and police officers. Several of them recur in each other's tales. Each novel shares a character here or there. Each book reads as a separate entity but works to build an alternative London, a city that might have been.
"London figures largely as a backdrop for the action of the forty or so short stories I have so far had published, and it frequently acts as a catalyst for supernatural events. I plan to continue exploring the past, present, and future lives of this fascinating city, populating it with characters real enough to exist yet sufficiently steeped in the fantastic to be able to reveal new shadows within its ancient buildings."
Fowler later commented that, in his fiction: "I try to show that there's light in the darkest situations. I use stylization to reflect real concerns about modern urban life, in an entertaining, accessible format. Influences include William Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, E.M. Forster, H.H. Munro, J.G. Ballard, B.J. Johnson, and Tennessee Williams.
"I was inspired in my subject matter by the feeling that few novelists were exploring fiction through contemporary working white-collar urbanites. Cities have as many myths and fables and heroic adventures as classical landscapes, but their stories are rarely told. Still, I don't over-analyse. Writing is a discipline for me, so I rarely plan away from my desk. I never write more than a dozen pages a day. Lately I have been exploring crime fiction from a new angle, tempering bizarre plots with humor and serious themes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Fowler, Christopher, The Bureau of Lost Souls, Century (London, England), 1989, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1991.
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Booklist, May 1, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Full Dark House, p. 1506; May 1, 2005, David Pitt, review of The Water Room, p. 1522; May 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of Ten Second Staircase, p. 24.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2005, review of The Water Room, p. 612; May 15, 2006, review of Ten Second Staircase, p. 497.
Library Journal, June 1, 2004, Wilda Williams, review of Full Dark House, p. 108.
New Statesman, October 3, 1997, Suzi Feay, review of Disturbia, p. 45.
New York Times Book Review, June 25, 2006, review of Ten Second Staircase, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, review of The Devil in Me, p. 69; May 3, 2004, review of Full Dark House, p. 175; May 23, 2005, review of The Water Room, p. 62; September 19, 2005, review of Seventy-seven Clocks, p. 49; May 8, 2006, review of Ten Second Staircase, p. 49; April 23, 2007, review of White Corridor, p. 33.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Susan H. Woodcock, review of Full Dark House, p. 198.
Times Literary Supplement, December 29, 1989, Phil Baker, review of The Bureau of Lost Souls, p. 1448.
Washington Post, February 26, 1991, Martin Morse Wooster, review of Rune, p. B3.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (June 4, 2004), Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek, interview with author about Full Dark House; (June 25, 2007), Joe Hartlaub, reviews of The Water Room and Ten Second Staircase.
Christopher Fowler Home Page,http://www.christopherfowler.co.uk (June 25, 2007).
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (June 25, 2007), "Christopher Fowler."
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (June 25, 2007), David Mathew, "London in the Blood: An Interview with Christopher Fowler."