British Fiction Focus

Tributaries of Rivers of London

You can take the copper out of London—you can take him, to wit, to “a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children”—but you can’t take the London out of urban fantasy’s favourite copper, can you?

Foxglove Summer, the fifth of the bestselling PC Peter Grant series—which began with the wonderful Rivers of London—is, at long last, almost upon us. With the hardcover out hereabouts in early November, news of a tour in support of said text, and the announcement of an upcoming comic based on the books, I borrowed Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, his partner in sequential art, for a chat about Body Work and beyond.

Body Work, in case you weren’t aware, is the “canon continuation” of Rivers of London in comic book form. In the same breath as revealing “a series of deluxe Michael Moorcock Library editions [which] will collect the adaptations of the legendary British novelist’s fantasy and sci-fi books” and a sequel to Death Sentence by Mr Montynero, Titan Comics touched on the project at New York Comic Con a fortnight or so ago.

Body Work has been in the works for a lot longer than that, though. “We’ve been shopping around the basic idea for years,” Aaronovitch explained:

It’s such an obvious next step that I suspect it never occurred to anyone that we wouldn’t do it and so it really came down to finding a publisher who was going to put up with my standard conditions. These were; character design approval, artist approval and champagne to be provided gratis at every meeting.

At the very least!

So what is it, exactly? “A series of five-issue stories that will be also released as a trade paperback graphic novel,” according to Aaronovitch:

Each story will be a stand-alone set within the continuity of the Rivers of London universe. Initial stories will concentrate on Peter Grant and Nightingale plus the usual suspects, Seawoll, Stephanopoulos, Guleed, Dr Walid, Molly etc. as required by the plot. If these prove successful then we may experiment with stories involving Nightingale’s past, the further adventures of Abigail and/or other side aspects of the universe.

But of course, comics books are a collaborative medium, and Aaronovitch won’t be working alone. We have Mathew Dow Smith to thank for the cover rough embedded below.

He’ll be handling the art; and Andrew Cartmel will be working with the aforementioned author on the words:

This is a dream project for me, both because I love writing comics and because I love working with Ben.

Of course, it’s a case of extending rather than adapting the Rivers of London books because we aren’t going to draw on any existing stories, but instead write new ones. It’s a delight to add to the world of the books, because I enjoy those books so much—I’m a big fan, and I’ve had the privilege of watching them come into existence since they were a twinkle in the Aaronovitch eye—and it’s also a kick collaborating with Ben again. I’ve found working with him a considerable pleasure ever since we did Doctor Who together a quarter of a century ago.

The wonderful thing about comic books—sorry, graphic novels—is that it’s a different medium and you can do different things you can’t do in a first person prose narrative—splash pages, reveals, flashbacks for other characters, privileging the reader. All that good stuff.

Ben and I are working very closely on the comics. We discuss story ideas on the phone, divide up scenes in the script, each write our own scenes, then we read what we’ve both written, meet for a burger, and discuss it over lunch, then develop and polish the script. It’s a very good process—involving some very tasty burgers.

We’re excited about the project, Titan seem energised and Ben and I are having fun with it. Which is always a good sign. If it all goes as planned, I think the fans will be very pleased.

Fingers firmly crossed. We’ll find out for sure when the first issue of Body Work is released… sometime next Spring, I think.

That’d be quite a while to wait if it weren’t for Foxglove Summer—and lest we forget the talking tour Aaronovitch is about to embark on in celebration of its imminent publication.

If you’re in London, Leeds, Liverpool or Ledbury—not to mention Nottingham or Manchester—or perhaps you’re planning to attend either the St. Alban’s Literary Festival on November 7th or the Wimbourne Book Festival on the 9th, the Gollancz Blog has all the details you’ll need to arrange an encounter with Aaronovitch.

Nothing else to see here, readers. Best be moving along before PC Peter Grant arrests you on suspicion of interest!

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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