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