The delights of re-reading Reginald Hill never diminish

By Pauline Rowson

Link to Amazon for re-issued PB in the UK.

I first discovered Reginald Hill in 1978. I was ill and my husband, home on leave from the armed forces, bought A Clubbable Woman (first published in 1970) to cheer me up.  From that moment on I was hooked not only on Dalziel and Pascoe but on everything Hill wrote. As soon as a new novel was published I’d be there buying it in hardback.

Reginald Hill is without doubt one of my favourite crime writers and a major inspiration behind my own crime writing career.  Clever and witty, you only have to read his Bio on his web site to get a glimpse of his style, “The year of my birth was 1936 and not long after the event, the king abdicated. Despite the rumours, the two events were probably not related”.

Although best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe novels I also love his thrillers, particularly The Long Kill, published in 1986 written under his pseudonym of Patrick Ruell, which features a retired hitman, Jaysmith, who soon discovers that retiring is not an option.

Then there’s his wonderfully humorous Joe Sixsmith series set in Luton, featuring the laid back and serendipitous black redundant lathe operator turned private detective. Sixsmith first appeared in a short story but Hill was reputed to have liked writing about him so much that he gave him a series of his own, and I’m delighted that he did.

The true test of a great crime writer is that his or her books can be re-read many times and on every reading remain fresh; Reginald Hill’s novels certainly pass that test with flying colours and with each reading they serve up a new source of enjoyment. Masterfully constructed and written, what marks Hill out as unique is not only his meticulous plotting, surprising twists and realistic dialogue, but also (and in particular) the dry humour, the cynicism, and banter between his believable characters. Hill’s social conscience and his reflections on society also come through in his novels but never through the author’s voice always through the characters.

When I read with sadness of his death I picked up one of his novels from my bookshelves to read again, choosing the first in his Joe Sixsmith series, Blood Sympathy, but couldn’t stop there and before I knew it I was once again in Luton with the black PI and his cat, Whitey, reading Born Guilty, Killing the Lawyers, and finally I was visiting the land of my fathers, Wales, in Singing the Sadness.

I am deeply honoured to have corresponded with Reginald Hill who encouraged me in my crime writing career and saddened never to have met him.  He will be and is greatly missed but he will certainly live on in his work and will continue to be enjoyed by me and thousands of others in the years ahead.   If you like humour, tension, mystery, and characters that leap off the page then you’ll love Reginald Hill.

Pauline Rowson is the author of two fast-paced thrillers and of the popular contemporary marine mystery crime series featuring the flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton whose patch is the Solent, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Her crime novels have been hailed in the UK as the ‘Best of British Crime Fiction’ and in the USA her novels have been likened to the works of Peter Robinson, John Harvey and Ed McBain. There are seven in the DI Horton series with the eighth Death Lies Beneath being published by Severn House in July 2012. Her novels have been translated into several languages. Pauline Rowson is also an accomplished public speaker and gives talks to many audiences, providing an entertaining, inspirational and humorous talk about how she writes her crime novels and her life as an author.