By Rhian Davies of It’s a crime! (Or a mystery…)
If you are going to become a crime fiction lover, I believe it starts early and not just through reading. As a child of the sixties I can confirm this also includes TV viewing, and family viewing from the formative years. When you’re too old for Watch with Mother or Blue Peter another staple of TV viewing can kick in during teenage years: a wonderful cop show with a challenging puzzle to solve. Competition in my family home was rife: who could take pride in being the first to guess whodunit? (Extra kudos was earned for getting motivation and method right when such point scoring was available due to the presentation of plot.)
Warren Clarke as Dalziel in An Advancement of Learning.
From Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars to Juliet Bravo and Kojak, to Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect and so on, we have been spoiled with many series of TV cop. A clear and enduring favourite over the years has to be Inspector Morse which started in 1987. Then, nearly a decade later in 1996 along came Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe. For TV, this was obviously initially modelled on Morse – BBC’s competition to ITV’s Morse perhaps? – with a brooding score from the same composer, Barrington Pheloung, and an echo of older cynic cop with younger and greenish sidekick, both male.
Now, before anyone hits the comment button, I am aware of the first attempt at adaptation here. I am happy to say that it passed me by at the time, as most people consider the episode completely dire with the inappropriate casting of comedians Hale and Pace in the lead roles. I have been reliably informed that Hill referred to them as ‘Hake and Plaice’ as a result. But then came 1996… Continue reading
By Stephen Booth
Aside from his stature as a writer, there’s one characteristic of Reginald Hill that everyone seems to agrees one – his generosity of spirit and unfailing willingness to support other writers. So it seems fitting that one of the most succinct summaries of his approach to writing a crime novel didn’t appear in any tribute to Reg, or in an interview with him, or in anything that he said about himself. It appeared in an appreciation of another author’s work.
I felt I’d been given a fascinating glimpse into the Reginald Hill crime writing philosophy, when I read these words: “Good crime fiction is economical, which does not mean short but rather that everything in a book, however apparently peripheral, incidental, or even ornamental, should contribute to the story’s central dynamic. If a writer is successful in this, readers will finish the book with that contradictory sense of delight and disappointment – delight at having enjoyed such a complete and rounded experience, and disappointment that it’s over!”
I think the idea of the “central dynamic” is crucial to an understanding of Reginald Hill’s novels. Some crime writers (and indeed editors) might insist that nothing should be in a book which doesn’t contribute directly to moving the plot forward. But for Hill, there was more to a book than the plot. That “central dynamic” was about an idea, a theme, or an underlying concept. The unravelling of a mystery was a very important part of that concept, but not the whole of it. All those peripheral, incidental or ornamental elements were crucial to the story too. So each Hill book became, to use his own words, “a complete and rounded experience”. Continue reading
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
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
By Anne Zouroudi
Link to PB on Amazon UK.
When I was younger than I am now, Reginald Hill was a privileged resident at our house. Or at least, his novels – Deadheads and An April Shroud come immediately to mind – had homes in the family bookcase.
My mother and father, though keen readers, rarely bought books. Most books in our house were on loan, chosen on the regular Saturday afternoon run to the library. But at some point – an East Coast holiday seems the most likely time and place (Skegness or Scarborough, rather than Nantucket or New York) – my mother paid money for Reginald Hill. I see that as her vote of confidence in his reliability.
I picked up my first Reginald Hill after watching the BBC’s brilliant serialisation of Dalziel and Pascoe – Warren Clarke as a bossy and bluff Dalziel, David Royle as the craggy- faced Wield, and I fell half in love with handsome Colin Buchanan in the role of Pascoe. I was already addicted to Morse, and Dalziel and Pascoe was an interesting foil for the gentility of Oxford academia, with the rude and crude Dalziel an evil twin to the thoughtful and cultured Morse.
Dialogues of the Dead came later, but in my mind Clarke and Buchanan were forever Dalziel and Pascoe, and it was their voices I heard as I read. It’s a long book, over 550 pages, and that immediately earns my admiration. To write such a long novel takes great stamina; to maintain pace to engage the reader through such length takes an accomplished craftsman. Continue reading
By Margaret Murphy
Ellie Pascoe (Susannah Corbett) at her wedding to Peter.
By my calculation, the BBC adapted 14 of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but this changed after On Beulah Height. The producers decided to write Ellie Pascoe out of the TV series (in the storyline, Pascoe and Ellie divorce, and she moves to the USA with daughter Rosie). If memory serves, Susannah Corbett’s other acting commitments were cited as an excuse for writing her out. It was a mistake, and my own feeling was that television at the time was nervous of complexity, and a strong woman in the teleplay was just too demanding. And Reg Hill did write wonderfully strong, vibrant women – even his apparently weak females are capable of whipping round and slapping you about the chops with your stereotypical notions. Susannah Corbett met Reg and Pat Hill at the press launch of Dalziel and Pascoe. ‘As I walked in,’ she told me, ‘two very normal and unassuming looking people (quite out of place for a press launch) accosted me, shouting “It’s Ellie – you’re just how we imagined you.” That remains the greatest compliment I have ever been paid.’ It was typical, too of Reg’s generosity of spirit.
When Arms and the Women was published in the USA, Random House had a Q&A on their website. Asked for his thoughts on the TV adaptations, Reg paid tribute to the skills of the actors, directors and scriptwriters, but added, ‘TV is too self-absorbed to enter into an equal partnership. You start close and cosy enough but soon you realize you’re not getting your fair share of the duvet and one day you wake to find you’re lying at the very edge of the bed, totally exposed to the chill morning air.’ I laughed when I read this, but I laughed harder at Reg’s response when he was asked at a conference how he felt about the loss of Ellie from the TV adaptations. The TV producers had made their decision: Ellie was gone, Rosie was gone, and there was nothing Reg could do about it. We would have forgiven him for raging – many of the audience were fuming on his behalf – but Reg made his point far more eloquently and decisively, and with his trademark wit. He said he decided to write his next novel centred firmly on Ellie. I remember the wicked gleam in his eye as Reg looked around the audience. ‘Adapt that!’ he said. Continue reading
By Yvonne Klein of Reviewing the Evidence
Link to title on Amazon USA.
When I reviewed this (under its North American title, Death Comes For The Fat Man), a perennial tiff had surfaced in the papers regarding the relative merits of literary vs. genre fiction. It was a discussion that was to come to a bit of a boil a year or so later, at Harrogate, when John Banville announced that he could manage only 200 words a day when writing as himself, but as Benjamin Black, he could crank out 2,000. Appearing on the same panel, Reginald Hill gained a round of applause when he said, “When I get up in the morning, I ask my wife whether I should write a Booker prize winning novel, or another bestselling crime book. And we always come down on the side of the crime book.” Hill may have always turned to crime, but he was far from abandoning the literary, especially in the later novels and picking up his references, which his novels wore lightly, was one the great pleasures his work provided.
On a warm Bank Holiday afternoon, Hector, a police constable not noted for his acute observation or articulate expression, thinks he hears something like a gunshot. He ambles into a dimly-lit shop where he is assured that all is well. But he does report the incident, more or less, and thus sets into train a series of events that will shortly see Andy Dalziel in hospital, uncertainly poised between life and death. Peter Pascoe, protected by Andy’s bulk from the full blast of the explosion, embarks on a single-minded and unorthodox investigation of the crime. Continue reading