Reginald Hill: not just classy; cool.

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Reginal Hill at Harrogate in 2010.

My crime-writing colleagues have been writing sadly, lovingly, admiringly and eloquently about Reg Hill, and I can’t pass up the chance to say what a wonderful writer and delightful man we have lost.  I venerated him greatly and loved his company.  It was my proudest moment as a crime writer when he proposed me as a member of the Detection Club.  I wish I could remember the affectionate jibes he directed at me in his speech.

Reg was erudite, cultivated and a master of the English language, but he wore his learning so lightly and wittily that it was reminiscent of a soufflé surprise.    He could be authoritative, but he was never ever pompous.  He laughed affectionately at himself, at his friends, at the world and at his characters.  When he described himself as being at the Jane Austen end of the crime-writing spectrum he meant he didn’t go in for torrid sex or graphic violence.  But of course the comparison works at a much deeper level.  Like Jane, Reg was a wise and amused observer of the human condition who had great compassion but a subversive pen and utterly despised pretention.

I was a happy member of the audience at Harrogate in 2009 for his memorable discussion with John Banville.  He had wondered in an email what they could talk about.  ‘Dare I suggest that as Iris Murdoch got a full Booker for The Sea! The Sea! he should only have got half a one for The Sea? Maybe not…’ Continue reading

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A personal memory of Reginald Hill from Julia Wisdom

By Julia Wisdom, HarperCollins

I was immensely privileged to be Reginald Hill’s editor for eighteen years.  He was erudite, versatile, witty, endlessly inventive and deeply humane – an elegant and profoundly intelligent writer who remained very much his own man.

The first book I published by him was Pictures of Perfection, a playful homage to Jane Austen, and the last was The Woodcutter, a compelling revenge tragedy described in The Times as ‘an outstanding novel of force and beauty’.  In between came a veritable feast of riches, the highlight being (for me) the extraordinary On Beulah Height, a magical novel which wove together past and present, music and tragedy, the loss of children with children’s fables, and passionately evoked landscape and vivid narrative voices, even Reg’s own, Yorkshire-set, lyrics to Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. This was a book that moved me and, I suspect, many others to tears, and I’ll never forget how it felt to read that typescript for the first time. Continue reading

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 Personal Memory: Reginald Hill

By Ann Cleeves

My first memory of meeting Reg Hill was at a CWA Northern Chapter Symposium in a hotel in Grasmere in the late eighties or early nineties.  He’d organised the weekend and it represented him perfectly: extremely comfortable, very sociable and quite unpretentious.  The food was wonderful and there was plenty to drink.  I was new to the association and Reg made me feel welcome.  He even bought one of my early books.  Even then I knew that the novel was dreadful and I was mortified.  Reg must have realised that after the first page, but typically never mentioned it again.  Tall and quietly spoken, a perfect gentleman, he could have been a hero in a classic detective story.  Except perhaps for his wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

Reg was one of the greats of British crime-writing, but he didn’t become a star overnight.  I first came across his work through a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour adaptation and even then his books weren’t widely available.  He kept his day job as a lecturer and perhaps because he bumped into people of all ages at work, his observational skills were brilliantly sharp.  He understood people’s frailties and petty jealousies and was one of the few writers in any genre who could make me laugh out loud.  Some authors can craft words well on a page but are less confident when they speak.  Reg was a superb speaker.  At one award ceremony he followed a writer who was somewhat long-winded and self-congratulatory.  In a few sentences Reg had the audience in stitches and cheering in admiration. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Reginald Hill – a personal memory from N J Cooper

By Natasha Cooper

I first met Reginald Hill in the late 1990s when we were on the same panel at Dead on Deansgate in Manchester.  Reg had just published On Beulah Height, which is not only a wonderful crime novel but also an exploration of the nature and meaning of fatherhood.

My nerves were jittering because this was my first experience chairing a panel and I had admired Reg’s novels for years.  He instantly put me at my ease, telling me he was rather hungover.  I asked whether I should address him as Mr Hill on the panel or Reginald.  He laughed and said ‘Reg’.

Years later, I was invited to interview him at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and I leapt at the chance.  We were on first thing on Saturday morning, but I had no fears about the size of the audience.  Reg was always one of the most popular speakers.  Because of the time, the organisers provided us with coffee and croissants, but we had so much to talk about that neither of us took a single mouthful.

Reg’s interests ranged so widely that there was never any subject on which he could not be both informative and funny.  And he was always deliciously funny.  However serious his novels, and a lot of them were very serious indeed, there were always jokes.

His brilliant creation of Superintendent Andy Dalziel provided a lot of the laughs.  Fat Andy, with his grotesque personal habits, scratching his backside on the corner of a desk, farting, swearing, addressing young women with the most outrageous sexism, could not have been further from the man Reg revealed himself to be.  And yet Fat Andy came out of Reg’s imagination.  I had this fantasy that one day I would find the question that would unlock some hidden chamber in his mind and he would come out with a wicked Dalzielism. Continue reading

The Friday Walkers

By Jane Holmes

For more than twenty years we have been walking on the Cumbrian Fells with Reg almost every Friday.  We were known as ‘geriatric b’.   I was never sure who ‘geriatric a’ were.   We must have been on nearly a thousand walks.  It is very hard to summarise that.  Reg hoped the group would continue but how could it without our resident story teller.

The group began when David & Janet walked with Teresa and then Liz.  Then all four walked together led by David.  Some time later Pat & Reg joined them followed by the rest of us in ones and twos. Many of us met in 1988 at a WEA music class in Gosforth, taught by another David, who often joined us on birthday walks, in recent years.  Of course everyone in West Cumbria knows everyone else anyway but it underlies our shared interest in classical music.  Fifteen of us walked regularly at different stages, including Jack who isn’t mentioned elsewhere and who died in his 80s.  Our children and siblings would occasionally join us when visiting.  Some of the group, including David & Janet eventually stopped walking, and then Reg and Allan led the walks on alternate weeks.   David was a tough leader and the group memory might have embellished some early walks when David led us down into valleys late in the evening.  He refused to stop at non-Jennings pubs until eventually the evening meal was a pint and a packet of peanuts.

In the summer we walked till late and then went to the nearest pub to eat but in the winter we finished by four and then met at a local pub to gossip and eat.  Some of the group became diners rather than walkers and for many years there were 12 of us eating and talking.  How annoying we must have been with our great shouts of laughter.  On the last Friday before Christmas, for many years, we met at Fangs Brow at 10 and walked along the coffin trail and down through Holm wood to Loweswater and along to the Kirkstyle for Christmas lunch.

The photo was taken on one of these walks.  We are: Brian, Pat, Margaret, Jane, Reg, Liz, Teresa and Allan with Polly in the front row.  We are on our way to meet Emmelien, John, Mary and Peter at the Kirkstyle. Continue reading