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

Reginald Hill – an appreciation

By Bill Kitson

I was very sad when I learned of Reg Hill’s death. My regret was twofold, in part because I had heard so many people speak of him in such glowing terms, both as a writer and as a person, and also because I would have loved to have been given the chance to express my appreciation of his talent as demonstrated in one of his books in particular.

I had enjoyed the Dalziel and Pascoe books and the television adaptation of them, with the admirable Warren Clarke in the lead role. So when I was travelling to Crete on holiday, I looked forward to reading a stand-alone novel of Hill’s that I had bought at the airport. I didn’t realize the shock that was in store for me.

Link to paperback on Amazon UK.

The book was The Stranger House, the plot of which centres around two young people from different countries, different continents even, and from widely differing backgrounds, who journey independently to Illthwaite, a small Cumbrian village, where the Stranger House is situated. The house has been used for centuries as a haven for travellers, but the youngsters are more interested in discovering the truth about what happened to their ancestors who came from that village and why they left, or were forced to leave.

Many of the inhabitants of the village are descendants of people who lived there 500 years ago during the period when people of the Catholic faith were being cruelly persecuted, and as old divisions emerge, it becomes clear that some of them have a vested interest in the secrets of the past remaining buried – literally buried in some cases. There is an awesome demonstration of Hill’s talent here as he varies the pace of the narrative when describing events in the present day and those from long ago, matching that speed to the pace of life at the time.

The young visitors gradually begin to uncover clues to crimes both old and new, and as I continued to read it and the plot wound its way to a logical conclusion, I reached the penultimate pages knowing I had worked out the satisfactory and credible ending.

Genius is an overworked word these days, but when I read the final word of the epilogue, I gasped aloud. The revelation contained in that final word pulled all the intricately woven threads of the plot together and provided added motive and credibility to everything that had taken place throughout the narrative. To construct a book that is 640 pages long and to leave the denouement until the very last word – that to me is genius, or something very close to it.

I may never be able to emulate such a result, or even get close to it, but The Stranger House will always remain a benchmark, a target that is possibly unattainable – but one that I can at least aim for. Falling short will be no disgrace. And for anyone who hasn’t read it, you’ve missed a treat. I thoroughly recommend rectifying that omission.

Bill Kitson, creator of the DI Mike Nash series, was born in Baildon on the edge of Ilkley Moor. In his leisure time he played cricket before becoming an umpire where a One Day International at Lords was the pinnacle of his career. He worked for many years in the finance industry (in the days when banks made profit!) before taking early retirement, when his love of writing became his fulltime occupation. Now, Bill lives in a small village in North Yorkshire on the edge of the Dales where the countryside provides the backdrop for his books.

Book Review and Tribute: On Beulah Height – Reginald Hill

Review by Norman Price of Crime Scraps Review from the UK

A Tribute to Reginald Hill, Reading On Beulah Height

Reginald Hill died from brain tumour on the 12th January 2012 and will be greatly missed. Along with PD James, Ruth Rendell, and Colin Dexter he dominated crime writing in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s.  He was born on 3 April 1936 in West Hartlepool in County Durham, into, in his words “a very ordinary family”, and after passing his Eleven Plus Exam went to Carlisle Grammar, and St Catherine’s, Oxford.

Although he wrote other novels including a series about Joe Sixsmith, a black private investigator in Luton, he is best known for creating Andy Dalziel, the rumbustious police detective, who believed anyone from south of Sheffield was a “jumped up, supercilious intellectual twit”.  The series of books featuring Dalziel and his younger colleague Peter Pascoe started with A Clubbable Woman in 1970, and the last published book was Midnight Fugue in 2009.

UK paperback edition

I recently went back to read On Beulah Height, which was published in 1998, shortly after the television series began to feature on our screens in 1996.

Fifteen years before three young blonde girls had gone missing and no bodies had ever been discovered. These events occurred just before the village of Dendale was flooded by Mid-Yorkshire Water PLC to create a reservoir.

‘And Dendale was lovely, was it?’ said Pascoe.
‘Oh, yes. It were a grand place, full of grand folk.’

The reader learns about Dendale from a statement by Betsy Allgood, who was attacked by, but managed to escape from the strange reclusive Benny Lightfoot, who also disappeared without trace. The young Dalziel had released Benny and this was one case that remained unsolved.

When the water level falls in the reservoir due to the very hot weather, the bulldozed wreckage of Dendale is exposed and another young girl, Lorraine Dacre, on an early morning walk with her dog, goes missing. Continue reading

Book Review: The Death of Dalziel – Reginald Hill

Reg Hill’s Self-deprecation

By Barry Forshaw

Whenever I met Reg Hill, I always found the most winning of his many winning features was his reluctance to take himself seriously – a characteristic he shared with Colin Dexter, but burnished to an even more self-deprecating level. He was always polite about anything I wrote about him in various newspapers over the years (whatever his private view!), but told me that the following (for The Death of Dalziel) was his favourite review of mine. My day was made. Now I can sadly quote the first line of the piece about Reg himself.

Is he really dead? Has the Fat Man really sung at last? That’s something you won’t learn from this review (and Reginald Hill’s publishers are keen that you pay to find out the answer). But there’s no denying that many will read this latest entry in Hill’s exemplary series with an extra frisson of interest (has it really been 37 years since we first met the educated, sensitive copper Peter Pascoe and the coarse but lovable Andy Dalziel in A Clubbable Woman?). And many of us will be wondering – has Hill tired of Dalziel? Continue reading