In Appreciation of Reginald Hill

By Val McDermid

When Reginald Hill died in January, I lost a friend, a colleague and a hero. It’s hard for a writer to be completely aware of their influences; it’s often easier for readers and critics to see what we’ve absorbed and reflected back from the books we’ve been drawn to. But I can point to a handful of writers whose work in one way or another helped to shape me. Reg was one of those.

I can still remember the delight of discovering Dalziel and Pascoe in A Clubbable Woman. It was one of those Grafton paperbacks with the uninspiring covers. I was in the café of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester where I used to hide from my newsroom colleagues so I could read instead of drink during my lunch break.

As I read, I realised I was smiling. But not because of the sly wit that permeates Reg’s writing. I was smiling because I had in my hands that rare thing – a crime novel that demonstrated that it’s possible to write a detective novel in good prose. Well-made sentences, felicitous choices of words, and the ability to create deft shifts of mood all revealed a level of literary craft that was unusual in British crime fiction back in the mid 80s.

For me, a fledgling crime writer struggling with her first novel, it set the bar high. And as Reg developed his skills through an impressive series of novels, he continued to provide me with a target to aim at. I always felt he was several steps ahead of me, and as well as enjoying his work, I learned from each of his novels. How to mislead the reader. How to draw on other writers’ work to enrich my own. Not to be afraid to invest real emotion in the work. How to allow characters to carry the weight of their past. To have the courage to be complicated. Continue reading


A Few Themes and Elements in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe Series

By Margot Kinberg of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… from the USA.

Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe novels are justly regarded as one of crime fiction’s truly fine series. Beyond the fact that they’re well-written (which they are) and have well-developed characters (which they do) and solid mysteries (which they also do), these are novels rich with layers and themes. Little wonder at all that they’ve been called literary as well as crime novels. Space doesn’t permit a thorough examination of all of the themes and elements there are in this series. Hopefully a quick look at just a few themes and elements will convince you to see for yourself what I mean if you don’t know already.

One of the themes that run through several of the Dalziel/Pascoe novels is the connection between the past and the present. For example, An Advancement of Learning is the story of the murder of Alison Girling, former president of Holm-Coultram College. Five years before the events in the novel she disappeared and was assumed killed in a freak avalanche. When her body is discovered actually on the campus grounds, Dalziel and Pascoe are called in to investigate. While they’re investigating, student Anita Sewell is murdered. Then there’s another murder. The two detectives then have to find out what the connection is between the past murder and the two recent murders. Continue reading

Book Review: Midnight Fugue – Reginald Hill

Review by Rob Kitchin of The View From the Blue House, from Ireland

Review of Midnight Fugue by Reginald Hill (2009, HarperCollins)

In Mid-Yorkshire, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel is not quite himself, still easing himself back into work after being hospitalised by a terrorist bomb.  His Monday morning starts badly when, seemingly late for work, he discovers that it’s actually Sunday.  To make matters worse he’s been followed by a woman chasing a ghost – her former copper husband who disappeared seven years previously after the death of their daughter and accusations he was on the take.  She in turn is being followed by a sister and brother pairing, sent to dispose of the rogue cop before he turns against the criminal he served.  That criminal is Goldie Gidman, who started running rackets, progressed into the money markets of London’s square mile, and is now a major conservative party funder.  His son is a MP and a rising star of the party.  Both are being hounded by a tabloid journalist, the nephew of a cop who failed to corner Gidman for the murder of a local Polish businessman.  A recent picture of the rogue cop, taken in Yorkshire, has been sent to his former wife and she wants Dalziel to help find him so she can get divorced and marry one of his former colleagues, one of Dalziel’s old copper mates.  So starts a sixteen hour swirl of drama and farce. Continue reading

Review: The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill

Review by Vanda Symon of Overkill, from New Zealand

I read with great sadness that Reginald Hill had died early this year. He was huge in the world of crime fiction, bringing us a piece of Yorkshire with the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but it wasn’t until I read his obituary that I realised that his writing ranged far further than crime, and that he’d also written historic fiction, thrillers, science fiction and another series – Joe Sixsmith. It also made me realise I hadn’t actually read any of his books. I’d seen the BBC adaptations of Dalziel and Pascoe, and in an odd kind of a way my mind had decided that because I’d seen the programmes, I’d therefore read the books. But we all know that is not the case!

It was time to remedy the situation. But where to start? The man had written over fifty novels! Normally I would start at the beginning, particularly if the writer had a series of books, but then with twenty-four Dalziel and Pascoe novels it was all a bit daunting. So I decided to start at the end, with The Woodcutter, the stand-alone thriller published in 2010.  I’d read some great reviews of the book, so thought I’d go with what people were calling one of his best.

Of course he had me with the first lines:

‘Summer 1963; Profumo disgraced; Ward dead; The Beatles’ Please please me top album; Luther King having his dream; JFK fast approaching the end of his; the Cold War at its chilliest; the Wind of Change blowing ever more strongly through Colonial Africa, with its rising blasts already being felt across the Gate of Tears in British-controlled Aden.’

Continue reading

Round-Up of Week Two

Thanks to everyone who has contributed this week to our continuing celebration of Reginald Hill’s life and work. We’re getting such a rich set of perspectives from friends, fellow authors and fans alike. Thanks also to those who’ve taken the time to comment. We truly appreciate your input.

We started off the week with a marvellous personal perspective from noted author Andrew Taylor. Taylor shared his memories of meeting Hill and getting to know his work. Later Hill became a mentor when Taylor began his own writing career and in his tribute, Taylor shared his appreciation for Hill’s kindness, humour and of course, his company. Of Hill’s work, Taylor said,

“The books spoke, and speak, for themselves. They are like the man: witty, generous and unfailingly intelligent.”

Taylor closed his article with a wonderful anecdote of his last visit with Hill.

Next we were treated to a lovely tribute to Hill and a discussion of The Woodcutter by author and reviewer Jessica Mann. Mann found herself “bowled over” by The Woodcutter and could “hear Reginald Hill’s voice” in the novel. To her, The Woodcutter

“…is still in the thriller genre, containing crimes, clever clues and eventual revelation, but it’s much more than that.” 

Mann’s long friendship with Hill and her respect for him is evident in her tribute. Continue reading

Selection of Book Reviews: Dalziel and Pascoe – Reginald Hill

A selection of reviews by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise, from Australia, in her noted style applying ratings out of a maximum of 5.

Just as his Dalziel & Pascoe novels (27 of them in all) constitute only about a third of his total output, so the various reviews of Reginald Hill titles on Mysteries in Paradise are but the tip of the iceberg.

5.0 A Cure for All Diseases
4.5 Asking For the Moon
4.5 Child’s Play
4.3 Death of a Doormouse
4.7 Midnight Fugue
4.5 The Spy’s Wife
4.2 The Roar of the Butterflies
3.8 There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union
4.8 The Woodcutter

And I thought that as he got older he got better. His novels were more than police procedurals, or thrillers, or murder mysteries. They had intellectual and literary content, to the point where I thought he could really be said to be one of those cross genre writers.

I have only read, regretfully, about a third of all the books he wrote, but I’d love to point you to the three that I liked best. To these I gave a rating of 5.

The Wood Beyond published in 1996, #15 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series

Police Inspector Peter Pascoe has stumbled upon the remains of an ancestor unjustly executed in wartime. As he delves into the mystery of his disgraced great-grandfather’s death, his partner, Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel, is preoccupied with a shapely animal rights activist. Eight female protesters have discovered human bones on the grounds of a drug company’s research headquarters, and the investigation has a shocking connection to Pascoe’s own family case.

The Death of Dalziel published in 2007, #22 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series aka Death Comes For the Fat Man

When Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel sticks his nose in where it is not wanted yet again, and is consequently blown up by a Semtex bomb exploding in a video store, the unthinkable is on the cards: the death of fat Andy. Then it seems there is little justice in the world. Sheltered by Dalziel’s bulk, and only slightly injured in the bomb blast, Peter Pascoe is fairly quickly seconded to CAT, the anti-terrorist unit. As fat Andy fights against the odds and remains in a coma, blame falls on the Knights Templar, a right wing group pledged to dealing with Moslem sympathisers through summary execution and even suicide bombing. Pascoe suspects there may be a mole in CAT who is leaking information to the Knights Templar, and that his secondment is in fact busy work to keep an eye on him. There are some beautiful cameo performances in this book: Cap Marvell, Dalziel’s partner;  Hector,  the policeman who originally noticed something odd in the video store; Rosie, Peter Pascoe’s daughter who has absolute faith that Uncle Andy will wake up when he is good and ready; Ellie Pascoe, so supportive of Peter; and finally Wieldy, ever faithful, always coming up with the goods. This is one book that you don’t want to finish… Continue reading

Book Versus Adaptation: A Clubbable Woman – Reginald Hill

Book Versus Adaptation by Bernadette Bean of Reactions to Reading from Australia

Book Versus Adaptation is an occasional series hosted at Reactions to Reading which, in this instalment, focuses on the first book in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series.

The Book

The first of 24 books in a series, A CLUBBABLE WOMAN was published in 1970 and was, according to Hill’s foreword to a recent re-release of the novel, intended to be a standalone book featuring “a young, liberally minded, reasonably idealistic graduate” called Peter Pascoe. His uncouth, old-fashioned, ex-Rugby playing boss Andy Dalziel was to be a mere contrast to the chief protagonist! Both men are introduced at the beginning of Chapter Two and perhaps the relative lengths of their descriptions gives a hint that Dalziel was already straining to take the lead regardless of his creator’s intent

Superintendent Andrew Dalziel was a big man. When he took his jacket off and dropped it over the back of a chair it was like a Bedouin pitching camp. He had a big head, greying now; big eyes, short-sighted but losing nothing of their penetrating force behind a pair of solid-framed spectacles; and he blew his nose into a khaki handkerchief a foot-and-a-half square. He had been a vicious lock forward in his time, which had been a time before speed and dexterity were placed higher in the list of a pack’s qualities than sheer indestructibility. The same order of priorities had brought him to his present office.

He was a man not difficult to mock. But it was dangerous sport. And perhaps therefore all the more tempting to a detective sergeant who was twenty years younger, had a degree in social sciences and read works of criminology.

I adore the imagery of this passage; it so succinctly enables readers to build solid first impressions of the book’s two leading men.

The case that the men are working on is the murder of Mary Connon. After playing a Saturday afternoon game for his local Rugby club, during which he received a nasty blow to the head, Sam Connon heads home and almost immediately collapses into his bed, not even stopping to talk to his wife Mary who is watching television. Some hours later he rings the police to report waking in the night and finding his wife’s body in their lounge room. Although Sam, or Conny as he is known, himself is a suspect for obvious reasons there is no evidence of his having committed the crime and so his friends and neighbours all join the suspect pool (an unknown intruder being ruled out early on due to Mary’s lack of defence wounds). Continue reading