Dalziel and Pascoe on TV

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

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Ellie Pascoe

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

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