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